‘Just keep advocating;’ Outgoing CCC student trustee Supreet Kaur on what the role has meant to her

Surpreet Kaur Contra Costa College’s current student trustee term is set to end this May 31, 2023, when she will pass the baton to the incoming student trustee Ivan Hernandez from Diablo Valley College. 

Kaur is currently enrolled at CCC’s Middle College High School, set to graduate this year and transfer to the University of Southern California this fall. She is a first-generation student from a family who immigrated from Bengal to the United States. She said she grew up with the aspiration of helping the people in her community, and today she continues to work towards achieving that goal. She sat down with The Advocate to talk about her experience during her time in this role.

This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.


Q. Any advice you can give to the next student trustee?

A. The biggest thing is that you don’t come in with your own agenda; you come in and listen to the students in the community. Sometimes, people expect for students to come to you, when you should be the one reaching out to talk with students. You are there to represent the students’ voices. There are policies that are restricting our students – there are policies against Cal Grant, which kind of poses that barrier for our underrepresented communities and students that do come from low income backgrounds. There are students that don’t qualify for CalFresh; there are students that are DACA, and they are already restricted from any financial source here in California. So just having that limation already, you are there to advocate for the students. If they are already facing these limitations and you aren’t saying anything or doing anything at all to listen to them, it’s going to pose a really big restriction and there’s no purpose. 


Q. What do you see the role of being a student trustee as?

A. I think I just see it as a person because I have never bragged about being a student trustee. I have just been really observant, and I’m still a student, and I’m not better than anyone else. I feel like the biggest thing for that role is that you are just there to uplift what voices have been silent and just keep advocating. 


Q. What has been the biggest thing you have been advocating during your student trustee role?

A. There are a couple of things I did [around] food, housing insecurity, and I also [supported] the Cal Grant reform. The biggest thing with Cal Grant was the GPA ineligibility – [that] poses a really big threat for the low-income background and underrepresented communities. I promoted this bill –  HR 2861 – which is the California College Promise Grant of 2021, and this legislation aims to provide two years of tuition-free attendance for all community college students in every state of the nation. Any individual despite their immigration status or income background do qualify for that grant and will get those two years paid. So that’s why I really just want to advocate for that because there is no financial source right now that is advocating for our DACA students.


Q. What is something important you learned while being a student trustee?

A. I think that the biggest thing I have learned in my role beyond the student aspect is just working with people that are older than you. I don’t want to be controversial – and this has nothing to do with our district – but just going out to other conferences and meeting other people, I think I have held expectations that I thought were bare minimum to me, personally, but those expectations were not met by those leaders, and sometimes I felt very disappointed. But what I learned is you can’t really control people’s behaviors or actions. They have their own agendas, and you don’t know what their motives are, so the biggest thing you can do is how you can progress and grow. That you have control of your actions and reactions is the biggest thing I have learned.


Q. What are some of the qualities and challenges of being a student trustee? 

A. Time. I feel like as a student trustee you get into your role while still learning a little bit about it, but as soon as you get into your role fully, that’s when your time restriction starts. But there is also a good thing to that – you can pass off projects to the next student trustee. So what I’m going to do is make a document to pass down to the next student trustee of some things that we could be doing just based on what I have been hearing and what things we didn’t get to do. But some other challenges have been even the Brown Act reform. You have to be in person to do all that which kinda poses that time constraint. 

Q. What are some of the challenges facing the district?

A. I feel like the biggest thing is outreach, like how do we tell students that we have all these programs that are offered on campus? I don’t think that students know that they can get computers from the library, that we have a food pantry, and that we do all these things is the biggest thing. That’s what I feel like when students come up to me and are asking for things that we do have, but it just isn’t outreached enough.


Q. How are you feeling now that your term ended?

A.I’m feeling pretty sad, but I’m also really grateful and excited to just see what the next student trustee does. I have also grown so much, and I’ll continue to grow and regardless of any position I have or even when I don’t have a position, I will still continue what I’m doing.


Q. What are some of your aspirations for the future, did this role help you shape these aspirations?

A. I think I really just want to help people. At first I was just really in this mindset of becoming an engineer – although that is still being helpful – but I really want to help my community and have that kind of one-on-one. Growing up I was a victim of abuse, and when I tried reaching out to authorities, no one ever helped me so I got let down by the system. I do want to choose a pathway that is in that kind of systematic sense, just so I can really help those people that don’t get their voices heard.