The Lion asked candidates questions about their campaigns to give us insight into their aspirations and motivations for running. Here is what John Avendano had to say:
Are you affiliated with a party, and if so, which one? What position are you running for, and what motivated you to run for it?
I am running for President of CCSC 2018 with my party, #RALLY. I’m running for Senior Class president for a few reasons. Having served on CCSC this year as the 2018 VP, I gained valuable experience in learning how to take on policy initiatives, have effective meetings with administrators, and navigate the administrative bubble. Moreover, with the help of our class council, I’ve helped plan lots of fun giveaways (laptop stickers, hot chocolate/doughnuts) and worked food deliveries (grilled cheese deliveries our sophomore year) that I think have, in the moment, caused temporary sighs of relief and moments of relaxation and happiness for many students in our class. I’m super passionate about trying to enable positive policy changes by personally meeting with administrators, but I also love partaking in campus life events and volunteering at them when I can.
I know that another year on council would bring me another opportunity to keep working towards this type of positive change, but with even more efficiency. In addition to policy, collaboration with the other councils (ESC and GSSC 2018) would make it super easy to plan senior wide and senior exclusive events. We have one year left and I really know it’s gonna be a great one, and I’m motivated to do everything I can in terms of event planning, policy pushing, and overall, working hard to make sure we have a good time.
If elected, what would your goals be? How do you plan to actually achieve them?
1) Collaboration with the Mental Health Task Force to advocate for timely, reasonable improvements to CPS (one idea is the establishment of support groups for people with common illnesses) – scheduling monthly meetings with administrators from CPS (Dr. Eichler) to work towards slow, gradual changes and ensure constant input and ideas are being heard.
2) Working with the financial aid office / possibly the Senior Fund to provide subsidized rates for Senior exclusive events, such as the Senior Gala, boat cruise, etc. I would hope to allot a certain number of tickets at each event to be provided at a reduced cost, and those who would want such tickets due to various reasons could fill out an anonymous form to be eligible. Ensuring that there is a biweekly event, exclusive to seniors, whether large or small (examples being t shirt giveaway or outside barbecue). Just want us to consistently be doing fun things for and with our class.
What is something you want to fix at Columbia? How would you plan to address it?
The stigmatization of mental health on campus is a problem that I’d love to address. Mental health will always be amongst the most paramount of topics at Columbia, and, with this, it should be something that is easy to talk about with people. Resources for addressing potential mental health issues should be well advertised.
My ultimate goal would be to establish a Project lets chapter at Columbia – “lets” standing for “let’s erase the stigma.” Project lets is a non profit organization that ultimately aims to provide a community for individuals who may even have the slight thought they suffer from a mental health illness. The chapter would provide for lets spaces on campus, which are essentially designated spaces with peer mental health advocates (trained peers) where people can go to seek counseling, participate in some form of body-based movement (i.e., yoga), relax and participate in some sort of fun activity (coloring, drawing, puzzles, etc.), and do this on a regular basis while preserving anonymity. Designating certain spaces on campus to be ‘lets’ spaces could certainly provide relief for those who may feel they have nowhere to go, and the benefit of it being peer led offers a nice alternative to people who prefer to be around someone they’d consider more of a friend as opposed to a professional that’s less relatable. Having applied for Columbia to have a lets chapter, and still waiting to hear back, I remain hopeful that I am able to bring lets to campus.
Any additional comments you would like to share with voters?
I think we bring a wide range of perspectives and a variety of leadership roles from different organizations on campus, whether that be through Athletics, the URC, CCSA or NSOP, to make it so that we have a firm feel of what the pulse on campus is like, and what our fellow students desire. We hope to work our hardest, if elected, to really rally for what both we and our friends and classmates alike believe in.