Jesus Gonzalez, like many other Long Beach State students, starts his day by logging onto Zoom for his classes.
However, the morning of March 18 was much different. Gonzalez was doing anything to keep his mind off the Associated Students, Inc. election results.
“My mom kept telling me ‘Eat something, eat something,’ and I kept telling her I wasn’t nervous,” Gonzalez said. “But deep down, I was nervous, and I think she knew that.”
Gonzalez said that when he got the notification that the ASI Instagram account went live, his heart started racing. He considered not watching the live results and instead just waiting until after to find out whether he won. His mother, however, was too excited and convinced him to tune in.
The two of them anxiously watched as ASI government election officer Helen Rodriguez and ASI social media assistant Jackie Jimenez announced the newly elected senators for each college, then the University Student Union Board of Trustees’ trustee at-large and then the new vice president.
“I was so nervous that, to me, they were talking so slow,” Gonzalez said. “I felt like it was building up tension, and when they were about to announce the next president, I was thinking ‘Just spill the name.’”
When they heard his name announced as the next ASI president, both he and his mother jumped off the couch in excitement. As Gonzalez put his hands to the sky and felt a wave of relief wash over him, his mother cheered him on. He spent the next few hours answering calls and texts from family and friends congratulating him.
As a first-generation undocumented student, Gonzalez understands that this position can help students who are in a similar situation as him.
“This position opens up so many doors for diversity and representation,” Gonzalez said. “This is a great way for me to continue to advocate for students and to continue working with not only my community, but the entire Long Beach community.”
Gonzalez has always tried to help others. Outside of school, he works with a non-profit organization, Parents, Educators/Teachers & Students in Action, as a tutor and works closely with students who have committed a first-time crime. The program gives students a second chance and gets their education back on track.
Gonzalez is currently a senator at-large and has already worked to assist undocumented students. He plans to tackle food insecurity among students in need.
“We have CalFresh, which says it is available to all students, but not really,” Gonzalez said. “Undocumented families do not qualify for CalFresh. That is an issue because there is a lot of food insecurity amongst undocumented communities.”
Gonzalez said he understands how it feels to be denied to eat based on citizenship status as he was once denied from CalFresh.
“There were days that I would just have a cup of noodles and that was it,” Gonzalez said. “It’s okay for some days, but there are those times you just want a good meal to eat.”
In hopes of reducing food insecurity, Gonzalez created a proposal that will give grants to undocumented and international students who apply. The proposal was approved and will be implemented in the fall semester as the first California State University campus to have such a program, to Gonzalez’s knowledge.
After he saw how much help he could give students just as a senator at-large, Gonzalez felt compelled to run for ASI president. Gonzalez had felt throughout the campaign and presidential debate that he would help more diverse communities than his opponent, Shayan Hashemi.
“One thing I did not agree with at all was when [Hashemi] said, ‘We are all American.’ I am an undocumented student, I struggle everyday, I don’t have the same opportunities. Unfortunately, we are not all American,” Gonzalez said. “That was the biggest difference I was able to see between us. My involvement will help different communities.”
Hashemi, who is double majoring in finance and accounting, admitted that running a campaign opened his eyes. He believes students’ concerns are not being heard and promises to continue to fight for them.
“I made a commitment to my fellow students to be their support while they pursue their education. My word is my bond,” Hashemi said. “No matter what kind of walls I face, no matter how much hate gets thrown my way and no matter how many losses I take, I will never stop giving it my all to honor my commitment.”
Hashemi said he plans to run for the vice president of finance of the Cal State Student Association and is considering running for ASI president next year. In the meantime, he said he is looking forward to seeing what Gonzalez will accomplish during his term.
“Though Jesus and I probably will never be friends, I have much respect for the man,” Hashemi said. “Of the 38,000 students on campus, he was the only other person to stand against me. That takes incredible courage and an incredible amount of dedication and passion. I wish all the best for him, and I hope he can make a positive difference in the lives of the current and future LBSU students.”
Despite their disagreements, Gonzalez and Hashemi said they are both willing to work together, tackling issues like housing insecurity among students, something both candidates care about addressing.
One of Gonzalez’s biggest concerns is the lack of diversity and sufficient funding among clubs on campus.
“One thing I have come to learn is that there are only four clubs for our Native American and African American communities,” Gonzalez said “In reality, there’s more Native and African Americans than that.”
Gonzalez promised during the presidential debate to give every club a $300 grant just as the school did last year. Depending on ASI’s budget, Gonzalez hopes to let clubs apply for more money for events.
The newly elected president also understands one of the earliest challenges he will face is welcoming students back to campus in the fall. Gonzalez is hoping to have a Week of Welcome on campus, instead of virtually, in line with public health guidelines as “we don’t want to risk our students’ health.”
“It would be so great to see all these students walking around campus, going to different ASI tables, looking at different clubs. That is the one thing we miss, that physical interaction,” Gonzalez said.
If an in-person event is not possible, though, he plans on hosting a virtual one including raffles, games and an escape room, he said.
When Gonzalez begins his term on June 1, he knows it will be the beginning of a new chapter that he hopes will leave a mark at CSULB for decades. Gonzalez hopes to be remembered as a student who went above and beyond for his fellow peers.
“Come to me and I will work closely with your issues, keep me in the loop so that I can assist,” Gonzalez said. “I’m willing to be the voice for students who can’t speak up or are afraid of getting in trouble if they speak up.”