By Pablo Jaime Sainz
He’s barely 20, but Ed Herrera wants to make a difference in his community.
Although he’s young, he knows first-hand the problems that exist in the Sweetwater Union High School District: He graduated from Chula Vista High School just three years ago, so the issues are close to him.
“You don’t really understand and see what’s wrong with your school until you graduate,” said Herrera, who’s the only candidate challenging incumbent Arlie Ricasa for Seat 5 in the Sweetwater Union High School District Board of Trustees.
Although he was able to graduate with honors and now is a student majoring in Political Science and Public Service at the University of California, San Diego, Herrera said that he received the most support from his family, not from district officials.
“My success in school was due to my family’s encouragement. I don’t owe that to my school nor to the district,” he said. “My parents worked three times as hard to help me and my education.”
Herrera said he remembers that he was a student in the district, many of his peers didn’t have a clear picture of what they wanted to do with their lives after graduation.
“The District failed them. The people to blame here is the District. It has failed students at every level,” he said.
Herrera especially points out that this is due to many of the board members selling out to special interests groups in exchange for monetary donations for their campaigns. He said that his rival Ricasa is one of the board members who has forgotten about her mission on the board.
“We need school board members that are less concerned with their political title and more concerned about providing progressive quality education continuity for our students,” he said. “Our district should not be used as a political stepping stone and the our school board members should not rely on the shoulders of our students to elevate them to higher office.”
Among the issues that he said need attention are:
· Improving Academic Achievement: “Reduce class size, close the academic achievement gap, ensure that all schools meet state and federal standards,” he said.
· School Facilities: “We must keep up with our ever growing communities while not compromising the quality education received at older schools.”
· Honest, Accountable Leadership: “I will restore integrity to our school board and will be a champion for students, not for personal agendas.”
Herrera said he has the support of Sweetwater students as well of recent graduates.
“They’re amazed, excited that there’s a candidate who they can relate to and who understand the issues they’re facing everyday at school,” he said. “Students are taking to their parents, telling them about me.”
Paul Norton, a 20 year old Southwestern College student and graduate of Chula Vista High School, said he supports Herrera because Herrera has a fresh, unique perspective.
“While in school, I remember seeing drugs, kids getting in fights in school, and officials did nothing,” Norton said. “I think Ed has a plan in place and I agree with it. We need to improve underperforming students. Ed has the right tools.”
Norton said that Herrera tutored him after school in order to be able to graduate in time.
The son of a Mexican immigrant father and a first-generation Filipina mother, Herrera grew up in Chula Vista.
He said that his diverse background will improve relationships between Latino and Filipino students and the school board.
“I’m going to outreach students to become part of the community. I will speak to students as much as I can. By the end of my term, 75 percent of district students will know what school board is and what it is for. I want them to know that we’re working for them,” he said.
For more information on Ed Herrera, visit www.edherrera.com.