Leadership of Temple's Student Government is first step for young Latino
TEMPLE UNIVERSITY’S STUDENT GOVERNMENT PRESIDENT, DAVID J. LOPEZ, RECENTLY ANSWERED SOME QUESTIONS FROM AL DÍA ABOUT GROWING UP LATINO IN HAZLETON, PA., AND ABOUT HIS PASSION FOR POLITICS.
WHAT MOTIVATED YOU TO RUN FOR STUDENT BODY PRESIDENT OF TEMPLE STUDENT GOVERNMENT (TSG)?
When I started at Temple University, I was looking for every opportunity to get involved. I knew my first priority was to find a job. So, I applied and was hired to be an Owl Ambassador (on campus tour guide). I can honestly say that this was the beginning of involvement.
After a few months, I found myself completely (immersed) in the Temple culture. I began getting more involved in student organizations. In my junior year I was elected president of the Temple College Democrats. Also, during this year a friend of mine served as the vice-president of TSG and asked me to be the chief of staff. After working in the position for a few months I knew that I wanted to run for president. I wanted to find the best possible way to tie together everything I learned in the classroom, my job, and as a student leader.
WHAT DO YOU THINK MADE THE STUDENTS VOTE FOR YOU AND THE OTHER OFFICERS?
I believe there are a multitude of factors that helped students decide which ticket they voted for. One of which was diversity. I think our fellow students saw that our ticket was made up of three students who came from different backgrounds. We all came from different regions in the U.S. and were all part of different student organizations (including but not limited to Greek life, student professional groups, and political groups). We did our best to create a platform that was very comprehensive and touched on many areas of Temple that students want to see improved.
HOW DO YOU BALANCE YOUR RESPONSIBILITIES AS PRESIDENT OF TSG ALONG WITH YOUR ACADEMICS AND EXTRA-CURRICULAR ACTIVITIES?
Coffee! But really, time management is something I’ve just started mastering within the last few months. In the beginning it was hard, but over time I realized that it’s all about prioritizing. Serving as student body president is a demanding job and I am constantly asked to promote, help, or advocate something new every week.
I keep in mind that I am the “student” (government’s) president, and my job is graduate and secure a job before anything else. I use any free time I have to reflect on my hectic schedule and prioritize. I have developed the time management skills needed to serve the students, achieve high grades, and be involved with activities.
AL DÍA IS A NEWSPAPER THAT FOCUSES ON LATINO ISSUES IN THE COMMUNITY. DO YOU IDENTIFY YOURSELF AS A LATINO? AND HOW DO YOU THINK THE LATINO STUDENT BODY IS REPRESENTED ON CAMPUS?
I was born and raised in Hazleton, Pa. (where) many Latino and Hispanic families experienced struggles in recent years. People from Hazleton were oftentimes quick to characterize me based on my last name. Growing up, it seemed like every time I accomplished something great, people thought it was just handed to me because I was a minority, while others suggested I had little opportunity to succeed for that very reason.
When I was younger I never felt the need to identity myself as anything other than “myself.” But as the Latino community grew in Hazleton, I felt an obligation to highlight my successes even more, in an attempt to counteract any negativity towards an entire community of people. I am proud of my last name and at the end of every day I want people to realize that I can be just successful as any other person. This is the second time in less than three years a Latino has been named student body president (at Temple). The president three years ago, Natalie Ramos-Castillo, was Latina.
DO YOU THINK THAT THERE IS A LACK OF LATINO INVOLVEMENT ON CAMPUS?
A certain percentage of every race or ethnicity is involved on our campus within student organizations. As I look at the university demographics I realize that the involvement is a reflection of each group. Temple is a very diverse institution — one of the most diverse in the country. However, even with over 300 student organizations I oftentimes notice that certain groups recruit and retain students from the same backgrounds. One thing I would like to see is more collaboration between all groups!
WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS FOR THE REST OF YOUR TIME AT TEMPLE?
With less than 80 days left until graduation my term is quickly coming to an end. My goal over the course of the next few months is to make sure that the next team elected is well-prepared in ways that we were and were not. Any student leader should always remember that is vitally important to leave your organization in better hands than when you took over. Aside from the preparation my goal is to also aid the administration in developing an agenda for Temple’s future.
ANY OBSTACLES TO ACHIEVING THESE GOALS?
I was elected in spring of last year when we had a slight disadvantage when President Ann Weaver Hart announced she was stepping down. Since we were elected we worked with President Hart, Acting President Englert, and our newest President Dr. Neil Theobald. Each of them has contributed so much to this university. It was difficult to work on our agenda since we had little time to develop a strong working relationship. Now that the university has named Dr. Theobald as our president I hope to strengthen the relationship between the administration and students in the months ahead.
WHAT DO YOU DO ON YOUR TIME OFF FROM SCHOOL RELATED ACTIVITIES?
I’ve always had a passion for politics, thus the reason I am a political science major. So, I really enjoy working on campaigns—either as an intern or volunteer. I also love being in Philadelphia. There is so much to do around this city! When I have free time I like to explore historic Philadelphia, catch a show, and my favorite thing… grab a bite to eat!
ANY ADVICE TO STUDENTS WHO WANT TO BE IN YOUR POSITION?
Don’t let anyone ever tell you that you can’t achieve something. If they do, you should be inspired to prove them wrong. Dedicate more than 100 percent to everything you do. People oftentimes run for a position or apply for something because they feel they are entitled to the next step. However, first you have to prove and fully commit yourself to every task or responsibility you’re given. With that, people see you commitment and passion and are more likely to help you attain your goals. One of the most important things you could do at the end of every day is give back to someone.