Making Sure Students are Heard

Photo of Santa Monica College student Joshua Elizondo
It’s not only about having a seat at the table. It’s about being heard.

That’s the message from Santa Monica College student Joshua Elizondo, one of the students on the Chancellor’s Office Guided Pathways Advisory Committee, which meets every two months to provide a space for collaborative design as Guided Pathways moves forward in the California Community Colleges.

“The whole point about Guided Pathways is changing things to benefit the student, and if you’re not listening to the student, if the student is not being heard, you’re ignoring the most important voice that can affect change,” said Elizondo, who is 23.

Comprising more than 50 members from colleges, the Chancellor’s Office, nonprofits and education advocacy groups throughout the state, the Guided Pathways Advisory Committee has been instrumental since its creation in November 2017 in establishing a road map for implementing the guided pathways framework.

Elizondo was nominated by administrators at Santa Monica College, where he has been actively involved on a Guided Pathways Student Advisory Squad that offers a student voice in troubleshooting and consulting as guided pathways is implemented at the coastal campus. Responsibilities include taking part in winter retreats, participating in committee meetings and institutional mapping days where courses are aligned into the Guided Pathways framework of meta majors the college calls ‘areas of interest.’ Those seven areas of interest will be implemented in fall 2019.

“Colleges implementing guided pathways on their campuses don’t always have students sitting at the table,” he said. “Santa Monica College is one of the few community colleges where students are not only sitting at the table, but they have a voice and are making an impact in implementing the guided pathways model.”

For Elizondo, it’s personal. Born in Detroit and raised for much of his youth in the Michigan foster care system, Elizondo moved to the Greater Los Angeles area after turning 18 to pursue a career in acting. He’s had acting roles in feature films such as “The Good Neighbor” and “Severus Snape and the Marauders,” and he has appeared in music videos for Demi Lovato, Britney Spears and Justin Bieber.

Along the way, Elizondo enrolled at a couple of community colleges, but he lacked help in choosing a curricular pathway and staying on a path to reach his career goals. Eventually, he dropped out.

“I wasn’t on the right path, and I wasn’t being guided in a way that would keep me in school,” he said.

Two years later, Elizondo enrolled at Santa Monica College and met a counselor who helped him develop an education plan. Now he’s on track to graduate in the spring 2020 with associate degrees in liberal arts and public policy, and he hopes to transfer to Occidental College or UCLA to earn a bachelor’s degree in either global studies or international relations. He hopes to one day leverage his success in the entertainment industry to affect positive change for populations that are often ignored.

Elizondo’s experience has taught him that students are sometimes overlooked at the community college level. Which is why he’s chosen to be involved.

“If the only impact I’m able to have on the Guided Pathways Advisory Committee is making the student voice heard, then that’s good enough for me.”