A millennial from Coachella, Rubén Pérez, scored an unprecedented political victory in the Nov. 6 California General Election that was celebrated in large part under the radar.
Pérez is the first locally born Trustee to serve from the city of Coachella. He is also the first locally born Latino to serve on the board.
In a three-way race to become the Area 1 Trustee for the Desert Community College District Board of Trustees, Pérez garnered 47.25 percent of vote, of 4,646 votes. The second place finisher, Frank Figueroa received 2,784 votes, or 28.31 percent; and Becky Broughton, a 12-year incumbent, brought up the rear with 2,403 votes, or 24.44 percent.
It was a stunning victory to a Board of Trustees that oversees College of the Desert’s campuses across the Coachella Valley. The school, which serves more than 400,000 residents of nine Coachella Valley communities and three unified school districts — Palm Springs, Desert Sands and Coachella Valley — is among California’s fastest-growing community colleges.
Rubén Pérez is a name that will undoubtedly be making headlines now and into the future. We wanted to get to know him and help our readers get better acquainted with him, too, so we posed some questions to him. His responses, in their entirety, follow.
Uken Report (UR): How old are you?
Pérez: I am 25 years old. I was born on August 6th, 1993 in Indio California to two, first-generation college students.
UR: What is your educational background?
Pérez: I earned a Bachelor of Arts in Chicano Studies and Political Science from the University of California, Davis.
UR: Where do you currently live?
Pérez: I live in Coachella, California
Pérez: I am a Policy Advisor and District Representative for Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia who represents the 56th Assembly District.
UR: Does that carry an extra level of responsibility? If, yes, how so?
Pérez: Most definitely. As a son of the area I want to make sure I make community proud. Part of my platform when campaigning was to ensure there was equity in regards to the Eastern Coachella Valley. It is my responsibility to make good on my promises.
UR: You are the youngest member of the COD Board of Trustees. Is that intimidating? If yes, why? If not, why not?
Pérez: No, I do not feel intimidated. Not too long ago I was in the very same shoes as those that I represent. I bring a different perspective to the table having been a student not too long ago. The senior Trustees have been welcoming and accommodating. I have been presented and entrusted with a great opportunity to learn and make good things happen for my community.
I also have great mentors who have been very helpful and provided great guidance.
UR: Why did you want to be a Trustee?
Pérez: While at the University of California, Davis, I relied heavily on the Community College system specifically Sacramento City College where I was able to complete some General Education courses for a fraction of the cost. I have personally experienced the pros and cons of the system first hand.
UR: What do you specifically hope to accomplish?
Pérez: I hope to improve the infrastructure and College of the Desert’s presence in the Eastern Coachella Valley. I hope to be a voice for equity for our students that come from the East side. The Eastern Coachella Valley has a very young demographic and has not been fully developed yet. The future of the Coachella Valley is in the East Side, that’s where our efforts should be focused going into the future.
I also hope to improve Transfer and Graduation rates for students at the college. Increase the number of courses that’ll provide these opportunities for our students. As well as improve partnerships between the local school UR: Why a COD Trustee and not a member of the City Council?
Pérez: For many, including my own family, education has been our way out of poverty. My grandparents came to this country with nothing, education has been an equalizer for us. I understand that education and a higher education is very important, ever since I could remember this was stressed by my family. It has never been about the position or the role, but the service to the community that I love.
UR: I believe your father, Riverside County Supervisor V. Manuel Perez, swore you into office. Tell us what that was like, please?
Pérez: Wow, this was an amazing experience and a dream come true. To have my father swearing me in as I was standing next to my mother and grandparents was almost surreal. Definitely the proudest moment of my life. My grandparents never received anything more than a high school diploma and worked in the fields, until this day one of my grandfathers still works in the fields. This is the reason why they made all the sacrifices they did when they left their home country. I hope they are proud of me and I continue to make them proud.
UR: What do you bring to the table that might be lacking?
Pérez: A younger, fresher perspective. As I mentioned earlier, not too long ago I was sitting in the very same seats of those that I represent. I have also developed relationships through my work with the Assemblymember and through my experience working for the California State Assembly as a Sergeant-At-Arms where I got to witness and learn first hand how to be diplomatic.
UR: What did we miss that you would like to add?
Pérez: Ms. Uken thank you for the interview and the opportunity. I would also like to thank my family for their unconditional love, and my campaign team for the sacrifices they made during the election season. I would like to thank the voters for their overwhelming support and vote of confidence in entrusting with such a great role and opportunity to serve the community I love. I hope to make them proud. And I would like to extend an olive branch to those who did not vote for me, but I ensure them that our priorities are one in the same, which is students first. I would like to commend Becky Broughton for her years of service and Frank Figueroa for running a great campaign and being a great voice for our community.
Again, thank you.
- Ruben Perez: File photo