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Student president travels to D.C., brings new insights back as souvenir

 

A Palomar student leader spent his Spring Break learning about politics and issues that will better address the needs of Palomar College students.

Mario Gaspar, Associated Student Government (ASG) President, attended a conference held by the American Student Association of Community Colleges (ASACC) in Washington D.C. over spring break with new perspectives and insights that will better prepare ASG for its future.

“You see how different colleges function and run and you try to take (the best) parts of their system and try to implement them into yours,” Gaspar said of the national conference that gathers 2-year colleges across the nation into one location to discuss federal issues faced by these colleges. “I think there are a few changes that we can make here in our board that will help us out in the future. “

The four-day conference was held from March 14-17 and cost $1,300 per person, Sherry Titus, Director of Student Services, said over email about the trip.

While the only member from ASG to attend the conference was Gaspar, the trip was open to everyone on the board contingent to meeting requirements set by their bylaws. The trip was discussed and planned for in October where an allocation of funds was set aside for the trip. Problems arose when members failed to turn in petitions to attend the event on time, Gaspar said.

Topics discussed at the ASACC conference were: Pell Grant Funding, America’s College Promise, Higher Education Reauthorization Act (HEA), Dream Act (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minor Act), and Student Loan Payment with Pre-Tax Dollars, Titus said.

“For me as the adviser, it is always nice to hear the passion in student voices and recognize their efforts to address items they are directly affected by,” Titus said.

Gaspar attended sessions that involved better communication with constituents and other groups, how to keep in touch with students, how to advertise, how to grow out student government and get better involvement.

“You see that different schools deal with different problems, and since this is a national conference you get to hear the perspectives of colleges from different states,” Gaspar said.

The Jefferson Memorial is seen across the Tidal Basin as Washington's famous cherry blossom trees reached peak bloom Friday just in time to provide a colorful finale to the city's spring festival, April 11, 2014 in Washington, DC.  (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/MCT)
The Jefferson Memorial is seen across the Tidal Basin as Washington’s famous cherry blossom trees reached peak bloom Friday just in time to provide a colorful finale to the city’s spring festival, April 11, 2014 in Washington, DC. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/MCT)

Gaspar and Titus toured the Capitol, attended a United States House of Representatives session and a United States Senate session, and toured several museums outside of conference workshops and events. The two also visited the Supreme Court and attended a courtroom lecture during their trip.

On the end, attendees voted on two to three topics to bring up in discussion with their respective legislators. While Gaspar and Titus were not able to meet with any congressman or senators during the trip due to scheduling difficulties, the two were enthusiastic on the topics discussed at the conference, in particular Presidents Obama’s January proposal of the America’s College Promise.

Gaspar breaks down the proposal simply by stating that it provides free education at community colleges across the nation for a year. It was a highly discussed topic at the conference.

While California is ahead in the topic by already providing the Board of Governors fee waiver to residents in the state, “The conversation is happening and that’s a good thing,” Gaspar said.

Image Sources

  • Cherry blossoms bloom in DC: Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/MCT | Used With Permission
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