Student for Educational Reform engages student needs, recruits activists


Christian Alvarez / The Advocate

Psychology major Lizbeth Gonzalez (left) speaks to communications major Lionel Harris (right) about Students For Educational Reform during a tabling and informational meeting in the College Center Plaza on Monday.

By Jessica Suico, Assistant News Editor

Getting Contra Costa College and other communities involved in educational justice across the nation is what Students for Education Reform (SFER) is all about.

SFER is a nationwide organization that has staff in New York, Colorado, North Carolina, and California.

The purpose for the organization, which has a chapter in Richmond, is to fight for public schools and to inspire every child to reach their full potential, regardless of race or financial background.

SFER develops college students into grassroot organizers who fight for educational justice in their community.

Program coordinator for SFER Raquel Antolin spoke to students Jan. 24 about the benefits of SFER at the “Why I SFER” meeting in SA-106.

“SFER is about a one love, community and overcoming difficult events,” she said.

Antolin gets her experience from her personal experience growing up as a low-income person of color in the educational system.

She was born and raised in Richmond and told attendees how all of her brothers dropped out of school and a few got into criminal activity.

She said that being looked down upon and not having access to the same opportunities as others made her brothers more vulnerable to having problems and getting into trouble.

Antolin said her brothers felt lost and that the teachers didn’t care about their futures, so they strayed and fell through the cracks of school. She wants to make sure other students will not have to go through that.

“I am a first generation college student and I am doing this to better my life, further my career and do something my family never had the opportunity to do,” Antolin said.

Spanish and La Raza major Lizbeth Gonzalez said, “I have been a part of SFER since the fall of 2015 and I love this organization.” 

The process of planning events and meetings for SFER differ. For big meetings or events, planning has to be done in advance to make sure events are well prepared.

The group then creates fliers and posts them around campus or out in the community if it’s a meeting or event that involves the people off campus, Gonzalez said.

Psychology major Alejandra Navarro said, “This is my second semester being a part of SFER.”

What Navarro likes best about contributing to the organization is having a voice and being able to learn more about education.

Gonzalez’s personal goal as an organizer with SFER is for children not to have to go through the same struggles she went through as a child.

She came to the United States from Mexico with her parents when she was 12 years old and didn’t know any English.

She remembers all the educational barriers she faced and how unjust the school system was.

She became passionate about helping create change toward a more equal academic community.

“There are some students who feel passionate about school,” psychology major Mikaela Pollard said. “Then there are others that don’t really care about school and they just do enough to get by. I think that shows some of the poor aspects of our educational system.” 

Pollard said it’s a great idea that SFER is on campus to inform people about fighting for justice in education, because a lot of people don’t know their rights.

SFER is most active during the fall and spring semesters, when more students are on campus.

The summer is dedicated to internships, interviewing for new members, political training, and door-to-door canvasing to inform the community and recruit people, Gonzalez said.