Every Friday before the first day of fall classes, CSULB’s president delivers their convocation address. This annual speech is the president’s opportunity to reflect on the university’s accomplishments from the year prior and provide a vision for the year ahead. This year President Conoley unveiled Imagine Beach 2030, a strategic planning process for the upcoming two years. President Conoley also invited ASI President Genesis Jara to make remarks about what she sees as the future of the Beach. President Jara was the final speech of the program and received a rare standing ovation in recent memory. Please take a moment to read her remarks here:
Thank you Provost Jersky for the kind introduction and President Conoley for the invitation to speak with this important audience. Welcome everyone.
As the provost stated, my name is Genesis Jara and I am honored to be serving as this year’s president of Associated Students, Inc. I am here today to share a little bit about my story in hopes to express the importance of all of our roles in ensuring the success of our students at this amazing university. And more specifically, what it takes to continue to break down barriers too often put in front of students from underrepresented communities.
I am a first generation Latina and a proud child of an immigrant. My father immigrated to the United States from Mexico when he was just 16 years old and soon after met my mother. At the young ages of 18 and at 20 they had my older brother, and two short years later they had me. My parents had all the odds and people stacked against them, even family members. No one believed teenage parents living in Compton would stay together much less amount to anything. My parents worked extremely hard to secure stable jobs, buy a home in Downey, California and raise us in a city with a great public education system. My parents, like so many others out there, have overcome and accomplished a lot. And just last month, they celebrated 24 years of marriage and are joining us here today.
Seeing my parents work so hard and make sacrifices for our family has always given me courage, and it’s why I am standing on this stage. Since elementary, all the way up until now I have served in student government. Service to others has and will always be my passion because of the morals they instilled in me, and though they have helped me lead a morally grounded, leadership focused life – I still suffer from this thing called the impostor syndrome.
When I got to college I realized how real the imposter syndrome is for students of color like me. The imposter syndrome is defined as a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist despite evident success. It’s easy to feel invalidated or not capable in spaces you feel like you don’t belong and I know this is a feeling that exists for many students of historically marginalized communities in higher education. Not only are they facing emotions of invalidation but they are often facing systematic barriers that come with the financial hardships of obtaining a degree. Too many of our students are food insecure, homeless, struggling with their identity, struggling with their citizenship status, struggling to pay rent, and overall struggling with all the costs of attending college.
CSULB and ASI have done a phenomenal job at providing resources for these underrepresented students. Services like our ASI Beach Pantry, scholarship resource center, undocumented student support groups, and legal clinics, were all created to ensure that our students feel supported in their times of need. And efforts like the implementation of the Queer Student Success Initiative, and workshops such as the Muslim, Vet Net, Autism, AB540, and Safe Space ally trainings make sure communities have partners so that we are all able to accomplish our objectives while earning our degrees.
In addition, as a university we are embarking on our Beach 2030 strategic planning process where all of us will be asked to reimagine what CSULB can look like 12 years down the line.
With our students of greatest need in mind, I imagine a future at Long Beach State where students don’t have to worry about where to sleep at night because we have an overnight housing center. I imagine a future where students don't have to pay hundreds of dollars for their textbooks. I imagine a future where we develop a sustainable funding model for our university so we no longer have to rely on inconsistent state funding. I imagine a future where no student has to go homeless or hungry while attending our university and that they will be able to afford an equitable degree. I imagine a lot for our university, and I am excited to continue this great work with my team this upcoming year as we strive to provide more resources for underrepresented students. But we can’t do it alone.
It takes the support and guidance from the advocates in this room, the faculty and staff like those here, who work with students on a daily basis. It takes the leadership of our administration as you continue to help us remove barriers and promote inclusive excellence. I am hopeful that together; ASI, faculty, staff and administration will continue our long history of a flagship shared governance model to create positive, lasting and inclusive change.
It is our job to ensure that all student communities feel that they belong in this space. That they are not imposters. AND that they can hold positions of power. I am thankful that this university has done just that for me.
Thank you and Go Beach!
Delivered by ASI President Genesis Jara on Friday, August 24 at the annual CSULB Convocation.