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Humanism in Action: Two Remarkable English majors — Miguel Contreras

 Two Remarkable English majors

This year saw two of our majors embark on life-changing journeys that illustrate the value and power of a liberal arts education. Mehra Gharibian traveled to Nicosia, Cyprus, to help young refugees; Miguel Contreras attended the League of United Latin American Citizens conference in Washington, D.C. They tell their stories below.

Miguel Contreras

Miguel Contreras

Before the League of United Latin American Citizens conference in Washington, D.C., began, I visited the Lincoln Memorial, and I realized that it was a lot bigger than I had envisioned. It was a bright building, and the light reflecting from the building made me squint as I walked toward it. I took my first steps to the building, and a surge of power came over me. I could feel the presence of Martin Luther King Jr. It was as if I had been sucked back to the time of the Civil Rights movement, and it was as if I were there when he gave his famous speech about human equality. When I got to the top, I read each word of the inscriptions that surrounded the statue of Abraham Lincoln. I thought about how far we have come as a nation and how much further we still need to go.

On that day, I realized that I had to take it upon myself to make a change, to set an example to upcoming generations. It was then I decided that I wanted to represent all the people in this country who, like my mother, do not have a voice but who are vital to the success of this nation. I decided on that day, as I looked out at Capitol Hill, that I wanted to make a difference. I want to let others know about my ideas and plans for the future. I hope that one day those ideas may be heard and applied.

As a kid who came from an abusive household and from the ghettos of Anaheim, a person whose parents had a second grade education, I realized that I had accomplished more than was ever expected of me and more than I ever thought possible. And it was then that I realized that I could do anything I set my mind to. I had achieved being part of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC).

I was about to embark on a conference of a lifetime where I would meet important politicians, go to briefings about public policy issues, and go to awards galas. On the last day of the conference, our briefings and trainings on public policy issues that affect the Latino community and other underrepresented groups would be put to the test. We had advocacy meetings with our congressional representatives, which put me in a nervous yet excited mood.

I then met Lois Capps, the representative for the San Luis Obispo region, and I led my cohort in a discussion on recent issues that have been manifesting at Cal Poly and in San Luis Obispo in general. I talked about the racial issues that have come to the surface this year, the death threats to inclusivity organizations on campus, and the lack of diversity at Cal Poly. I also asked Capps about the well-being of the farmworkers that surround our area and the conditions they are forced to work in out in the fields. I hope that my advocacy work made a difference that day. I know that my voice alone will not change things overnight, but at the very least, I made my presence known, and I gave a voice to those who could not be there that day.


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