Service and connection were the themes of the Walking the Leo Walk event Saturday for students and alumni to discuss the roles of public servants and how they have chosen to enact change in their communities. The event was held over Zoom and Facebook Live.
University of La Verne alumni Benny Ayala, Brittany Allison, Sal Medina, Jackie Perez and Jacqueline Elizalde served as panelists during the discussion.
Allison, vice president of the Social Justice Advocacy Project, said that she has always been involved in her community from a young age. She said she believes that anyone can be a public servant because it does not take any qualifications to be involved in your community.
“I felt as if this was something that I had to do,” Allison said. “It was literally a compulsion.”
Ayala, district representative for state Sen. Connie Leyva, got involved in public service through volunteering at an afterschool program. Ayala said this service gave him the passion to do more. He said the job of a public servant is to see the issues that do not come up often and to help the people who are not being heard.
Medina, owner of Packing House Wines in Claremont, is running for a seat on the Claremont City Council. Medina said that seeing the leaders on the University campus and in Greek life inspired him to strive for a position of leadership as well.
“If I could do just 1% of what that person is doing, I’ll be OK,” Medina said.
He said that starting out small in leadership or public service is great because that 1% will build to 5%, 20%, and so on.
Medina knows the impact that a good role model can have on a person who really needs it. He said he was a troubled kid and that he was helped by so many great people that put him on the right path. Now he feels that it is his time to help others.
“For every minute you give away, you get two back in return,” Medina said.
Ayala said that as someone gets involved in the political world, they are more engaged with other people in your community. He said that public servants see people trying to make their community better, and there is hope that something better will come out of it.
“What community means to me is compassion, hope, and love,” Ayala said.
Allison said that community means everyone coming together for a common goal. She said she hopes people can come together for a collective solution rather than seeing which side of an argument wins.
Medina said that community is all about positive energy, and the feeling of walking into a community where you want to be for a long time.
“We are sharing a space on this Earth, and we belong on this Earth together,” Medina said.
Perez, code as a second language coordinator at the Hispanic Heritage Foundation, said community is a place where everyone is welcomed, included and heard. Perez said for her, community feels like a family.
Ayala said the hardest part of public service is that it is draining both mentally and physically. He said that a public servant is often away from their family, the whole community is involved in their personal lives, and everything they do impacts their community.
Allison said that the work of a public servant is never done, and that often times they can not measure the impact of the work they are doing. She said that no matter how much time and effort a public servant puts into something, there is always more to do.
“Press on and do the good work knowing you have an effect on your community,” Allison said.
Elizalde, transitional assistance department for the county of San Bernardino Human Social Services, is also a candidate for mayor of Pomona. She said the hardest part of public service is taking a stand on an issue that is not going to please everyone in the community.
Ayala’s advice for those seeking a place in public service is to speak to someone who has experience as a public servant. Building relationships with experienced people and interning in local community organizations is the best way to see how things are done in the public sector.
“Know the time and energy required of you. Then double your expectations and that becomes your reality,” Medina said.
Walking the Leo Walk was hosted by the Office of Civic and Community Engagement. The event was part of the Office of Alumni Engagement’s Game On! Weekend.
Sebastian Ibarra can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.