By Rogelio Alvarez
Students, staff, faculty and guests gathered in F5-209 last Tuesday to raise awareness and money for East Los Angeles College’s Transforming Lives Annual Giving campaign.
The campaign was created after a recent Associated Students Union poll revealed that 70 percent of students struggled with hunger and food insecurity on campus.
“It was really based on the need to raise money to fund some of the programs that we have on campus, like CAFYES and EOPS, just so that they can provide solutions to some of the students that are facing these issues,” ELAC Foundation Development and Corporate Relations intern Hector Harold said.
The event featured speeches from ELAC faculty, a panel of students from various backgrounds sharing their personal stories of struggle, three short film screenings and donation announcements.
Physics professor Viken Kiledjian donated $25,000 to the ELAC Foundation in honor of his wife Anna Kiledjian, who passed away from cancer.
One of the student panelists, Jaci Cortez, shared her personal experience growing up as a foster youth and coming out to her family.
“People actually care and want to hear these issues, that not only happen in the foster care system, but in life. (The campaign) creates a solution for a problem that has been here, and we might have heard about it, but now we’re actually doing something about it. The homeless population and food security is a really big problem,” Cortez said.
Throughout the day, three short films were shown. Each film began the same way.
A professor assigns his class a speech assignment, but each film focused on how three students individually handle the assignment.
The first film focused on a student veteran struggling to adjust to student life.
The second focused on a former foster youth student who was homeless before attending ELAC, and the third featured a student with disabilities who struggled with bullying.
Former ASU member and ELAC, alumnus Romel Lopez was one of the panelists who shared his struggle with raising his children and attending school full time.
“We come with all these different problems. The funding is key because there’s this huge stigma that college is just for rich people, but it can be attainable to the homeless. It’s about having the proper resources for students to be able to transition into school and transition out,” Lopez said.
Guest speaker California Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon spoke about the importance of providing struggling ELAC students, with resources to ensure their success in life and school.
Lopez said that the increasing cost of housing is an issue that not only affected ELAC students, but all of California.
“The entire ELAC community was a huge part of this. Even with speaker Anthony Rendon coming in, it shows us that it was a communal effort to bring this event together. We’re looking to increase staff, so we’re looking to get the people who work at ELAC involved in this campaign,” Harold said.
For more information on the campaign and how to donate, visit elacfoundation.com/annual-giving-campaign