Office of Inclusive Excellence

A Message of Hope to the Next Generation of Social Change Leaders

May 2, 2023

I have always wanted to help others who have endured forms of injustice. Yet, I never imagined that I would grow to become a community organizer whose life is dedicated to creating access and opportunities for people with similar life experiences as my own. My passion and commitment are fueled by my hope to ameliorate human suffering and improve the human condition. 

My parents were born in a small rural area called Santa Ines Yatzeche, Oaxaca. Like many immigrant parents, my parents were drawn to the United States to escape violence and poverty and pursue their American Dream. Zapotec is their primary native indigenous dialect, and Spanish is their second language. Growing up in the Oaxacan culture, I saw how members of my community were affected by social structures that worked against them. While this is true across many industries, it is particularly true in the poorly structured services for language translation, immigration services, housing, and health care. If you are not from the United States, communicating and navigating across these systems can be challenging, humiliating, and prohibitive. As a result, because of language barriers and literacy challenges, my parents’ land of opportunity came with emotional, psychological, and financial stress. My father worked three labor-intensive jobs to make ends meet. And from a young age, I was called upon to translate for family members who could not read or write in English or spoke little Spanish. This is a role a child should not play, but it is a reality in far too many communities across the U.S. 

As I grew older, many instructors and counselors supported my academic journey. In fact, interactions with one of my high school GEAR-UP counselors changed my life. Assigned to support rural, low-income, and first-generation students to become college-ready, the counselor helped me educate my parents about my ability to pursue higher education. He helped me learn the importance of advocating for myself and supported me emotionally throughout the process. Most importantly, he taught me to accept and receive help from others without feeling shame. This became a source of personal pride and strength I needed to succeed, making it possible to imagine what a college education could do for me. 

I am a resilient, compassionate individual who believes in helping others with a true servant’s heart. As an adult, my passion for working with underserved communities has grown, and my experiences have allowed me to advocate for minoritized groups whose voices are often silenced through various forms of oppression. My patience and empathy ground and connect me to these communities and this vital work. I serve at-promise communities and individuals, promote well-being, and foster hope for the future.

My life experiences and vulnerabilities made me aware of the diversity of cultures, and I strive to learn more about others. Plus, my education and professional career have motivated me to pursue a master’s in social work to increase my knowledge in ethical practice and leadership to continue to advocate for respective cultural groups. It is my desire to ensure that all people are treated fairly and have equitable access to quality services. I want to create pathways to opportunities for my community and similar communities.

I am encouraged by the opportunities and relationships I have developed with CSUMB. And now, it is my hope that a young person from a similar background will read this and see that they can grow to be a fierce agent of change, despite their circumstances. This is the reciprocal relationship that CSUMB has with the Monterey Bay community. Not only are students from historically marginalized backgrounds afforded the opportunity to advance, but we are provided with the opportunity to serve in the communities where we live, work, and play. Thus, making our communities stronger and better. 

It is my hope that CSUMB will grow increasingly diverse to include more people from historically marginalized backgrounds in front of the classroom and senior leadership roles. 

It is also my hope that CSUMB develops more processes to support authentic engagement that better connects students and families to the campus community. 

When these hopes are achieved, the university can begin to fulfill the promise for our community that is deeply ingrained in the CSUMB Founding Vision Statement. 

Janelle Garcia-Zaveche 
CSUMB Alumni
Family and Community Engagement Coordinator, MPUSD