Congressman addresses education concerns at DVC


Taylor Pagan

Congressman Mark DeSaulnier converses with International student Sasmit Pokharel, 18, on Feb. 19 at Diablo Valley College.

Taylor Pagan, News editor

Congressman Mark DeSaulnier, a member of the House of Representatives Education and Labor Committee, visited Diablo Valley College on Feb. 19 as part of his recently launched Education Listening Tour across California’s 11th District.

DeSaulnier, students, staff, faculty, administration and college board members gathered in the new Puente, MESA and Umoja multi-purpose facility for an open forum directed by DVC President Peter Garcia. DeSaulnier’s tour, as stated in his Feb. 18 press release, will allow him to hear firsthand about ways to improve the California educational system.

Psychology major Manpreet Singh, 20, spoke about her concerns regarding first-generation college students, including low income African-American, Hispanic and foster youth students.

“A common theme that’s been outlined by everybody, all the students speaking here, is that they don’t necessarily need resources, they need human resources,” she said.

Singh believes conflicted interests within school districts and education boards also prohibit productivity, specifically regarding the allocation of funds and human resources for high-risk students.

In reply, DeSaulnier said, “You have to help everybody succeed at the same level, which requires an investment higher from all of us sometimes for people who don’t start at the same place.”

Sociology and psychology double major Dieudonne Brou, 27, talked about his own difficulties as a student of color in the California k-12 and higher education systems. Brou is a part of the Umoja learning community, which is dedicated to enhancing African-American student experiences.

“I didn’t have faculty or teachers that represented me,” he said. “I’m invisible in all of the textbooks or anything that we’ve ever learned because I’m not a part of the norm of society per say.”

Brou called for legislation requiring educators to be culturally understanding of the students they are educating. He called to end and change the systematic, societal norms and to educate individuals on institutionalized racisim that has kept people of color from being successful in college.

“Our achievement gap is not because of our inability to do anything,” he said. “Our achievement gap is a result of long lived experiences that students of color have been through.”

DeSaulnier responded, “We have to recognize that we have problems in this country and we won’t work until we really get through them.”

He said that democracy in America is not a destination, it is an aspiration that you have to work hard at every single day.

“People like the status quo and you’ve got to challenge it,” DeSaulnier said.