Hundreds of California community college students–including five from American River College–assembled at Raley Field Monday morning to march to the capitol in downtown Sacramento to protest for more affordable higher education.
The student protesters beat drums, sang and chanted as they made their way across the Tower Bridge and Capitol Mall. Downtown onlookers opened their office windows and police officers stood by on horses.
Upon arriving at south side of the capitol, the marchers heard speeches from politicians and other interested parties. The speakers spoke of the determination of California community college students and how an investment in their futures is a good investment for the state.
Several more ARC students met up at the capitol with those who had marched from Raley Field.
Martha Penry, a paraeducator of special needs students in the Twin Rivers Unified School District and former ARC student, was one of the speakers on the capitol steps.
“When I look at you, I don’t see students, or even activists,” Penry said. “What I see is the future of this great state. I see leaders in the world of medicine, I see leaders in the world of education, I see leaders in science and arts and finance. In fact, I think I might see the future governor right over there.”
“My daughter and I are both products of American River College, just down the road from here. We know the value of community colleges. My community college education allowed me–and I know it will allow you–the opportunity to reach career and personal goals.”
Assemblyman Rocky Chavez, R-San Diego, emphasized how community college helped him and helps all Californians.
“I will be here for another eleven years and I will continue to fight to get you in school, out of school and living the American dream,” he said to roaring cheers.
Assemblyman Paul Fong, D-Cupertino, thanked the marchers for their lobbying efforts through the years.
“You all deserve an A for being up here,” Fong said. “Last year we passed assembly bill 1358, which will allow you to have a voice here year-round instead of just one day. You’ll be having a lobbyist working on your behalf and you’ll be equal to the UCs and the CSUs … thank you for your contributions through that bill.”
Fong added, “higher education is very high on my priorities and you’re a blessing in disguise. You guys are just wonderful to come up here every year.”
Associated Student Body Student Senate President Kenneth Hinton was among the marchers, calling the March in March “empowering.”
“On the way over me and LeslieAnn (Dameron) kinda had some tears coming down our eyes because it’s a huge, empowering moment,” Hinton said. “It’s my last time doing this for the California Community College System.”
While as a whole, the march focused on community college affordability in general, the Los Rios Community College District was also advocating specifically for textbook affordability.
“A lot of our educational purposes should be free. Textbooks should be a little bit cheaper than what they have been or be free with the online educational resources that we have available,” said Hinton.
Protestors had the opportunity to lobby the state legislature on behalf of the issues they were marching for, and although student senate members took advantage of this at last year’s protest, Laurie Jones, Student Senate senator, was the only one to do so this year.