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November 6, 2018 — California General Election
School

San Diego Community College DistrictCandidate for Trustee, Trustee Area E

Photo of Sean Elo

Sean Elo

Education Policy Director
140,895 votes (36.7%)Winning
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My Top 3 Priorities

  • Free College for All - You and your children should be able to earn a college degree without accruing a mountain of debt. Other major cities in California have made community college tuition-free and we can do the same.
  • More Full-time Professors - Our students need more full-time educators and our hardworking professors deserve to make ends meet.
  • Meet Students’ Essential Needs - Housing, healthcare, food, and transportation impact a student’s ability to learn. I will ensure better connections to existing resources, so our students have access to life’s essentials while minimizing cost.

Experience

Experience

Profession:Nonprofit Executive Director, Education Advocate
Executive Director, San Diego Youth Development Office (2018–current)
Director, Campaigns and Policy, Mid-City CAN (Community Advocacy Network) (2015–2018)
Regional Field Director, California Democratic Party (2014–2014)
English Teacher, Hogye Elementary School (2010–2011)
Head Coach, Fountain Valley High School (2003–2008)

Education

California Western School of Law Juris Doctor, Law (2013)
Chapman University Bachelor of Arts (B.A.), Social Science (Psychology, Sociology, and History) (2009)
Golden West Community College (2003)

Community Activities

Board of Directors, San Diego Leadership Alliance (2015–current)
Board of Directors, Chair of Governance Committee, Community HousingWorks (2017–current)
President, San Diego County Young Democrats (2017–current)
2017 RISE San Diego Urban Leadership Fellow, RISE San Diego (2017–2018)
Lead Legal Intern, Community Law Project - City Heights (2012–2013)

Biography

A first-generation college student, Sean attended Golden West Community College. He then transferred to and earned his bachelor’s degree from Chapman University, where he studied psychology, sociology, and history. While in school, Sean was an award-winning high school swimming and water polo coach. Inspired by President Obama’s historic 2008 Presidential campaign to make a more widespread impact, Sean went abroad and served as an English and Special Needs teacher in Peru and volunteered as environmental preservationist in Ecuador. He then taught English in a rural South Korean community.

Sean subsequently came to San Diego to attend California Western School of Law where he was selected to receive a Creative Problem Solving Scholarship. At Cal Western, he served in multiple leadership roles, including president of La Raza Student Association and Amnesty International and as a Student Representative. 

For over 17 years, Sean has fought to create opportunity through his work as a teacher, coach, community organizer, and as a local nonprofit leader. Inspired by his diverse background and belief in the importance of historically disadvantaged communities working together, Sean also worked to strengthen the Student Diversity Coalition. Sean received a Pro Bono and Public Service Honors Society Award for his work with the City Heights Community Law Project, where he helped bring free legal clinics to schools.

Sean now serves as an associate director of a local non-profit organization committed to working with the community to create a healthy, safe, and productive San Diego. In this role, Sean leads a team fighting to create change from the ground up at all levels of government. He is an effective coalition builder who is committed to ensuring the people most impacted by decisions are at the table helping make those decisions.

When not at work, Sean remains committed to improving the community. He is a 2017 RISE Urban Fellow, serves as President of the San Diego County Young Democrats and as a board member of multiple non-profit organizations, including Community HousingWorks and the San Diego Leadership Alliance.

Who supports this candidate?

Featured Endorsements

  • Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest Action Fund
  • Retired State Senator and Former President of San Diego Community College Board, Marty Block
  • Congressman Scott Peters

Organizations (5)

  • San Diego Democrats for Equality
  • San Diego Progressive Democrats
  • San Diego County Democratic Party
  • Democratic Woman's Club of San Diego County
  • Chicano Democratic Association

Elected Officials (4)

  • State Senator Kevin De Leon
  • San Diego City Councilmember Barbara Bry
  • National City Councilwoman Mona Rios
  • Imperial Beach City Councilmember Mark West

Political Beliefs

Political Philosophy

The Opportunity For All Agenda

Free College for All

Imagine a San Diego where every person knew she or he could attend college without money standing in the way. Where everyone graduates without debt and with the freedom to build the life they’re told is waiting for them after college. Such a future isn’t some faraway dream. It’s within our reach.

States such as New York and Rhode Island have guaranteed free community college to their residents. Some California community college districts, including Santa Barbara, are covering the cost of tuition, fees, and required books and supplies. There is no reason we cannot do the same in San Diego.

Everyday, I lead and work with a team of dedicated individuals who are tackling huge challenges – the criminal justice system, transportation, and even an election system meant to disenfranchise.

I know how to level the playing field and will be relentless about getting the job done for the San Diego Community College District. From day one as a Trustee, I will fight with all of my energy and ability to ensure every San Diegan has the freedom to grow up in a community where cost is never seen as a barrier to college.

More Full-Time Professors & Counselors

The impact of an over dependence on adjunct faculty at San Diego community colleges isn’t just felt by professors and their families, it is felt by our students.

Fact: There are community college teachers and counselors who start their work day in Chula Vista and spend the second half of the day in the City of San Diego. Some travel much further, working campuses as far as Los Angeles County. Each campus requires full-time preparation, full-time attention, and full-time dedication. But more often than not, despite their hard work, these committed and selfless educators can barely make ends meet. They deserve better. So do our students.

When a professor has to leave right after class so they can make it to their next campus, students are not given an opportunity to engage with the teacher personally after the lesson, which can make a significant difference in a student reaching their goals. When a counselor has to mentally juggle multiple community college systems, it becomes more difficult to provide the roadmap and support students need to navigate the maze of higher education.

San Diego Community College District has taken important steps to address this issue and I am committed to furthering these efforts. Through local and statewide advocacy, we can make even more headway.

Meeting Essential Needs for Students & Professors

In 2011, in the midst of law school, I was homeless. For weeks, I searched for a safe location to park my car and sleep in order to get a full night’s rest for school each morning. One night in late-November, I was startled by flashing blue and red lights and the sound of police intercoms. I lied in my backseat convinced the police were there to remove me from the car. I had no idea what my penalty would be – maybe a ticket? maybe a night in jail? I didn’t know, but I was certain it wouldn’t be good. Luckily, the police pulled over another car, but I spent the remainder of my night shaken up by the immense lack of security I felt.

The next day, I wasn’t at my academic best. Nor was I at my academic best for the remainder of the semester. I was exhausted by the time finals rolled around, putting my scholarship and chances of remaining in law school in jeopardy.

My experience with homelessness gave me a first hand perspective on the impact of not having basic needs met. That’s why it is my mission to build bridges from the San Diego Community College District to our local government and non-profit community to do all we can to connect students with the essentials they need to fulfill their potential. Our campuses can and should be hubs for the programs and services that keep students housed, healthy, fed, and with a way to get to school and work. As a proven coalition builder with deep experience identifying potential allies, establishing and maintaining partnerships, and taking projects to the finish line, I will make sure this becomes a reality.

Position Papers

The Community College District's Role in Addressing San Diego's Homelessness Crisis

Summary

From the Board of Supervisors to local school boards, every body of government must do what it can to increase the housing supply, boost wages and stabilize rents.I know because I lived in the back of an SUV for one month during law school. 

A little more than six years ago, my home was a 1994 Ford Explorer. I was a first-year student at California Western School of Law and life circumstances — and a lot of misguided pride — made the backseat of an SUV my best housing option.

My finals were particularly tough that semester. My scholarship, and my future as a law student, were in jeopardy. Fortunately, my student aid kicked in at the beginning of the next semester and I was able to get back on my feet. Two years later, I delivered the commencement address at my class graduation.

Compared to the challenges other San Diegans face right now, I was very, very lucky.

I had a car to climb into at the end of the day while so many others were forced to take shelter on the street. What I did not realize at the time was that my challenge of homelessness was not so unique. It was part of a sweeping crisis of student homelessness that has only gotten worse.

Today, one third of community college students face uncertain housing or homelessness. Stories similar to mine are easy to find from students experiencing homelessness themselves or who know someone who is.

My parents and little sister, a City College student, were recently pushed out of their Golden Hill studio after their rent doubled in less than a year. In 2016, a friend and I worked for months to find housing for homeless veterans. Even with housing vouchers, we came up short. There simply aren’t enough places to live in San Diego.

As a candidate for the San Diego Community College Board of Trustees, these stories and my own struggles weigh on my mind. With few exceptions, there is more finger pointing than problem solving. We must move from assigning blame to accepting responsibility.

From the San Diego County Board of Supervisors to local school boards, every body of government must do what it can to pull the three levers that make up the solutions to this problem: 1) housing supply 2) wages and 3) rent stabilization.

The San Diego Community College District can serve as an example by taking action on what it can control — housing supply and wages. While the district has taken some great steps to help homeless students, we have the means and resources to ensure no student or educator ever ends up without a home.

It’s not a pipe dream. The district can partner with affordable housing developers to build housing for low-income students and adjunct faculty who are struggling to get by. Doing so will not only be a life changer for those who live in this housing; it will increase San Diego’s overall supply of affordable homes and apartments. Because the land would be leased by a developer, the financial burden on the district would be limited.

The positive impact of such a project would also be multiplied if the work was done under a project labor agreement with a local hire provision, which would ensure timely and quality completion while offering good jobs to hard-working San Diegans.

Second, by increasing the percentage of full-time faculty and counselors working for the district, a sizable group of folks who meet the Department of Housing and Urban Development definition of being in need of affordable housing would see their lives stabilized. If we do not take this kind of action, I fear that the heartbreaking stories from the Bay Area about homelessadjunct professors will become our reality. It would be a moral failure to allow the same to happen in San Diego.

Some may say a community college district should not have to solve housing problems. I agree. In an ideal world, it shouldn’t have to, but that doesn’t change the fact that our community is in crisis. These are not normal times. No body of government or educational institution is immune to the grave consequences of failing to take action.

To borrow a phrase from the Navy, this is an all-hands-on-deck moment of truth for San Diego. Are we going to rise to the occasion and make this a community where folks can afford to live a safe and healthy life? Or are we going to continue to take half-measures and allow our city to become a cautionary tale as a place with a world of potential that could not get its act together when it came to housing, the most basic of human needs?

America’s finest moments have always centered around folks banding together in the toughest of times. This is America’s Finest City’s opportunity to do the same.

Videos (1)

— May 10, 2018 Sean Elo for San Diego Community College Board 2018

The experts say candidates should not take politics personally. That makes sense in theory. However, this campaign and the role of a San Diego Community College Trustee is personal to me. You see, I love my little sister and want her dreams to come true, and the success of the San Diego Community College District is directly connected to her opportunity to fulfill those dreams. The better the District is run, the more likely it is that Natalie reaches her goal of becoming a social justice advocate. 

Having family members attend classes in the District helps me understand, on a personal level, the importance of our community colleges. There are 130,000 students, just like Natalie, who have families personally invested in the success of SDCCD. Each student, and their families, deserve leadership that will take the success of the District personally. I promise to do that and never forget – even after Natalie transfers to a university – what it feels like to have family in the District. 

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