Associated Students President

Jeronimo Saldana “Community colleges represent nothing less than survival for basic education. For some people, we are the last chance. For some, we’re the only chance.”

Yep. Just another stereotypical young guy. Dropped out of school at 18. Went into the ‘party life.’ Started the long and ungraceful slide into teenage alcoholism. But, then something intervened. In the case of Jeronimo Saldana, current AS president, it was a taxicab. “What happened was that I moved to Boston and was working as a bike messenger,” he recalls, with a visceral shiver of his memories of that city in winter. “I was just one of those ‘at-risk’ people. And then,” he says, with more than a tad of irony, “I thankfully got hit by this taxi, so I was out of commission.”

It was then, after Jeronimo couldn’t pedal the steep slopes of Beacon Hill, that his life went 360. “I came back to Santa Monica and started going to SMC just to pass some time. But something weird happened: I really liked it!” he says, laughing. “I got involved in AS, and the professors really motivated me. Without Mario Padilla and Dave Phillips, I’d be back in Boston pedaling a bicycle.” But ‘pedaling’ has taken a vastly different form since Jeronimo arrived at SMC.

“I work with the United States Student Association, which is the most powerful student lobbying group in the country. They’ve been around 47 years,” says Jeronimo, “and they help students on the national level with lobbying, programs, and initiatives. They trained me in voter registration, how to do contracts and get students motivated. And I’m doing all that now as their Chair of the Community College Caucus,” he adds. “I work with colleges nationwide to make sure they’re properly empowered. I mean, we are the community in these colleges. Most students that come here are nontraditional and doing it mostly for survival. And I’m very proud that I can help SMC make its presence known across the country.”

Read more stories from present and past years in the SMC Student Spotlight Archive.