Student trustee wants to prioritize student success

Amber Barrero, being an active member of organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Free Bradley Manning, is no stranger to activism.

However, everything changed for her upon entering motherhood.

“I want my children to have a good future,” said the 22-year-old sociology major. “Anything that has to do with the future and children or students is something I want to get involved [with].”

Now, in addition to promoting social awareness to matters like agricultural bioengineering, Barrero is taking an active stance in education by way of her office as the Los Angeles Community College District (LACCD) student trustee.

Barrero, who also works as building manager for family-owned apartment complexes, is currently in her third year at Los Angeles Valley College (LAVC). She plans to transfer to Pacific Oaks University, where she will be specializing in human development.

“When I got to my campus, I saw that there were a lot of students not getting involved,” she said.

One of the requirements for student trustee hopefuls is to hold forums at each of the nine campuses under LACCD. Barrero came toPierceCollegeto introduce herself to the student body the same day of the debate between the Associated Students Organization (ASO) executive board candidates.

“The [other candidate for student trustee] wasn’t there that day,” she said. “I gave a little spiel about myself. I was a little nervous, but it went okay.”

Her responsibilities as student trustee require her to clear out her Mondays and Wednesdays for her term in order to take care of board duties. She attends board meetings on Wednesdays and spends her Mondays in the district office, completing paper work.

“Basically, my role on the board is influence,” Barrero said. “My vote [during board meetings] is advisory.”

Even though her vote on issues technically doesn’t count, it does influence the way the board as a whole votes, according to Barrero.

“If I’m saying ‘yes’ to something and they’re saying ‘no,’ I would assume people would question their decision,” she said. “After all, they are voting on issues that affect student success.”

She describes her role as a “behind-the-scenes” for the Board of Trustees.

“On the students’ side, [my duty] is to hear what they have to say,” said Barrero. “I can’t just base my vote on issues on my own opinion.”

Barrero is able to indirectly “hear” LACCD students’ concerns through the Student Affairs Committee (SAC).

The SAC is comprised of the nine student government presidents of the nine community colleges under LACCD. The committee, which Barrero chairs, meets monthly in the district office.

“[The presidents] tell me what’s going on in their campuses,” she said. “They give me ideas to give to the board that need to be changed, or things that impact us that maybe the board isn’t noticing because of all the other things that are going on.”

As student trustee, Barrero gets a monthly stipend of $500 and a mileage reimbursement of approximately $.50 for every mile. Mileage reimbursement only applies to trips that are board-related.

“[The stipend] is for the time you spend going to the meetings,” she said. “You get $250 for every meeting you attend.”

It wasn’t easy for Barrero at the beginning of her yearlong term.

“At first it was a little awkward, and I was really timid about speaking up during the meetings,” she said.

She lists board Vice Presidents Tina Park and Nancy Pearlman, and predecessor Linda Tong as some of those who helped ease her transition into the position.

“They’re all helpful, but once it gets to what’s going on with the board they all have their separate opinions as well,” she said.

One of Barrero’s goals for her term is to get another student trustee to serve in the Board of Trustees.

“Just to have one person to go to all nine campuses I think pushes people away [from getting involved],” she said.

This is something that Linda Tong, who served as student trustee last academic school year, also hopes for the district.

“[LACCD] is the largest district in the nation,” said Tong. “San Diego[Community College District], which only has three colleges, has three student trustees.”

Tong is confident in Barrero’s capabilities as a student representative.

“She’s new to leadership, but I’m sure she’ll do a good job,” she said.

Another goal that Barrero hopes to accomplish is to shift the district’s focus to issues that would benefit student interest. This is especially high on her list of priorities, considering the recent controversy involving the district’s apparent misuse of bond funds.

“They haven’t been focusing on what they should be focusing on, but I feel like they’re coming back now,” she said. “I feel like we’re moving in a good direction.”

Barrero, a CalWORKs participant, is also working with former student trustees in order to organize a district-wide rally on the issue of the Greater Avenues for Independence (GAIN) program.

“[The Republicans] have lowered how much people get, and this really affects people that have families,” she said.

Barrero also hopes to hold another rally that would address the students’ thoughts on the state budget as it relates to community college education.

“Rallies show [our leaders] that we do care, and we’re not just going to sit down and accept it,” she said. “It’s just like how grandparents stand up for Medicare. If they can do it, then we students should be able to do it too.”