Meet Your Young Legislators


Meet Your Young Legislators

Two of our Generation 1st Degree student members, Haya Villareal and Hugo Vera have an interest in politics and making a change in their community. Instead of waiting until they major in political science or land their first job in government, these two motivated students have taken a leap forward by applying for and being accepted into Assembly Member Cristina Garcia’s Young Legislators Program.

The Young Legislators Program (YLP) provides high school students with the opportunity to become acquainted with the legislative process and to integrate themselves within their local communities through service. Upon completion of this program, Haya and Hugo will have cultivated a thorough understanding of legislative politics and will be well equipped to become future leaders.

“When I told Michelle Sandoval that I was interested in political science, she encouraged me to apply for the Young Legislators Program,” said Hugo Vera, a senior at El Rancho High School. “I’m already a member of the Teen Courts Club, but being part of YLP gives me an opportunity to find out how I can be engaged in the community.”

Similar to Hugo, Haya Villareal, also a senior at El Rancho High School, wanted to learn how government and businesses help communities on a day-to-day basis.

Since the program began, Vera and Hugo have toured the college campus of UCLA and the Coca-Cola Factory. The group of 45 students selected from all over California will also take a 3-day trip to Sacramento to learn more about our state’s government.

“I know for a fact that I want to be part of my community and help, and through YLP I get to see how change is made and what actions need to take place,” said Vera. “I also applied because my mom always told me if there’s an opportunity, I should take it because you never know where it will get you.”

Vera’s mom is right! The more opportunities students participate in to gain a deeper understanding of a career or industry, the more personal insight they will have to further themselves in that field. If you have a specific interest and want to know how you can gain more hands-on experience, don’t hesitate to reach out to a local professional or association to find out what types of student programs they offer. It’s also a very good time to start researching and planning for summer programs.

Money-Savvy Tips For Students

By Michelle Sandoval, Program Manager, G1DPR


During the spring semester, after all college applications have been turned in and students are anxiously waiting for acceptance letters, I transition the focus of our workshops to themes related to students’ financial management. Money plays an important role throughout life, so it is important for students to understand how to manage what they have appropriately.


Last month, I reviewed how to read financial aid award letters. This month, I am covering money-savvy tips that are useful for any teenager or young adult transitioning to college. Here are some helpful tips:


Track Where Your Money Goes

This is a simple, recommended activity that can have many positive benefits. Grab a notebook and start listing any money spent, including the date, total amount spent, and what was purchased. At the end of the week or month, add up your purchases by categories (coffee, eating out, snacks, movie dates) and see where the majority of your money has been spent. Then you can come up with easy alternatives to any bad money spending habits, such as staying in for a movie night versus going to a movie theater, or a potluck gathering with friends instead of dining out.


Establish a Credit History

Sometimes students think they are being “smart” by waiting until they graduate from college to apply for credit cards. This can come from a multitude of reasons, but the most common that I’ve heard is because their parents taught them not to owe money, so they avoid credit cards altogether. However, waiting until you graduate college to start looking for a credit card means you’ll most likely be only offered ones with very high interest rates or denied altogether for not having any credit history.


To start establishing credit history, I recommend that parents consider adding the student as an authorized user to one of their credit cards. Parents don’t have to physically give the card to their child. The purpose of adding the child is to help the child begin a credit file. Once your parents have created a credit file or you have opened a credit card in your name, it’s important to get into the habit of checking your credit score. Sites like Credit Karma are free and great for this!


Start a Checking and Savings Account

Opening a bank account can teach students how to make regular deposits, keep track of money, and prevent their account balances from overdraft charges early on in life. Online banking and smartphone apps developed specifically by banks also make account management easier for the younger generations who are used to using their phones for everything. As you begin to work and start saving money, a checking account becomes a good option as a place to hold enough money that you will be using to pay your recurring payments and fees; for example, cell phone payments, car payments, book purchases, etc.


With a checking account, and money coming in and going out, you will need to know how to write a check, especially if the school you are attending uses checks for scholarship awards or reimbursements. Here is a very easy to follow activity that will help you know exactly where to write what.


Similar to a checking account, a savings account is also a great place to keep your money. The benefit to a savings account is it sets aside money separate from what is allocated for recurring payments, and most savings accounts earn interest on the amount of money saved in the account.


Ways to Save Money

Use your Student ID. As a college student, you can get discounts for a lot of purchases you may not have previously considered. For example, Amazon Prime waives the annual membership fee upon proof of college enrollment. Anytime you buy anything – on and off campus, and even online – ask if there is a student discount.


Another great way to save is to utilize coupons or mobile phone applications (Target’s Cartwheel app is a great example of this) for everyday purchases that you can find at lower prices. Sometimes a simple online price comparison or knowing that items are on sale in upcoming days might mean having to wait longer to make purchases but usually means scoring bigger savings.


Learning how to manage money and maintain a high credit score will become increasingly important as you make your way through college to independence. In fact, many employers will run credit checks during the hiring process. This means that similar to checking your work history, college education and personal references, the employer will run a credit report and may factor in that score as they consider you as an employee. Additionally, establishing good spending habits and credit history throughout college will create many great benefits for you in the long run, especially when making large purchases such as a car or first home.

Your “Community” in College & Why it Matters

Last year, I attended a Young Men of Color conference and listened to several speakers talk about the emotional support first-generation students need to succeed in college. It confirmed what I’ve believed in all along–that first-generation students need to find “their people and/or community” on campus, especially during their freshman year. While the social aspect of it — needing to build new friendships — is what might be the initial driver, what’s even more important is the need to identify with like-minded students from the same culture, upbringing, family dynamics, interests and more. It’s human nature for all of us to feel a huge sense of comfort and relief knowing that we are not alone and that others are facing similar challenges and wins.


As you all continue to attend college campus tours and research the ideal college to attend, here are a few things to look for or ask of the student resource center:


  • Where is my community?
    Find out what types of clubs and associations are on campus that meet your interests and needs. For example, if you are majoring in engineering, join the department’s engineering club. Most college campuses will also have clubs and associations related to every ethnicity and interest you can think of, such as a Latino Club, choir, speech and debate, etc. Once you’re on campus, be sure to reach out to the club organizer to sign up for their newsletter or social media pages for updates on meet-ups, mixers and events.
  • Diversity and Inclusion

It’s also important to note that many colleges will have a dedicated staff member who helps students and staff navigate diversity and inclusion on campus. Determine who the point person is at the colleges of choice and find out what resources are available to students.


  • El Rancho Alumni and Mentors

Sometimes your best resource is a former student from El Rancho High who now attends the college of your choice. If you’re shy and need an introduction, please don’t hesitate to ask Michelle Sandoval, Generation 1st Degree-Pico Rivera’s program manager, to help assist with the introduction. Many of our students are proud to welcome new students from their hometown to their college campus.


For more tips on how to survive your first year of college, please check out an article we posted after the Young Men of Color conference last year.



Jacki Cisneros