(Photo from left to right: John Samoza and Daniel Vazquez)
Civic Engagement is central to APANO’s mission of ensuring that Asian and Pacific Islanders are fully engaged in the political process, and have opportunities to vote in elections. In order to inform and educate our members about the May 19th special election, we have reached out to candidates who are primarily running for seats on local school boards and institutions of higher education. We will be posting candidate responses (from only those who have responded) on a daily basis.
Candidates have been asked the following questions to engage more directly with constituents, and for voters to be more familiar with their vision and policies. We are giving equal opportunity to all major candidates in the race.
Beaverton School District- Zone 6
John Somoza, Daniel Vázquez
1. How are you qualified to represent the interests and concerns of diverse communities of color, immigrants and refugees?
Somoza – Being a second generation American of Mexican descent and married to my wife of Filipino descent, we experience the joys of multicutlurism in our own family everyday. Diversity is now the norm and not the exception however one thing is universal – education is the key to success in life. I want to ensure that all students receive a quality education regardless of social background. However, one-size education does not fit all and I want to focus on giving parents more control over their child’s education. We need to do all we can to inspire and motivate our students to find their passion and that will lead to their ultimate happiness and success in life.
Vázquez – Because I myself am an immigrant from Mexico who came from the state of Jalisco to Oregon when I was a young child – I understand the plight of immigrants in this state and country. I am more than qualified to represent the interests and concerns of immigrants, refugees, and diverse communities of color. Also, having studied and worked in East Asia for over 6 years, I speak Thai, Mandarin, Japanese, and Korean – It allows me to be culturally competent when working with people who speak those respective languages and cultures.
2. What policies and practices do you support that ensure all Asian and Pacific Islanders can be meaningfully engaged in the decision-making of the institution(s) you would represent if elected?
Somoza – There are 2-things which I think are very important to connect with the community. The first is outreach to the community leaders to understand the overall concerns. The second is to connect with the parents directly. I believe the school district does a great job at the former but there is room for improvement with the latter. Without strong parental engagement it is hard to motivate the students to succeed. I would like to see a greater use of technology to be able to connect with parents in real time to be able to get more timely feedback. There are no second chances with our children’s education!
Vázquez – First of all, I would make sure Asian and Pacific Islanders in the school district know who I am and let them know that I am a resource and community liaison for them. I would ensure that policies and practices that are inclusive of API folks be in place. Such as, dual language immersion programs so that API students can be learning and improving their “home language” as well as English.
3. Oregon currently graduates half of it’s English Language Learners, who make up 10% of the state’s K-12 student population. What policies will you support to ensure that students–including ones who identify as English Language Learner, have access to quality education and career-readiness programs after graduation?
Somoza – As a higher education program manager at Intel I get to work with universities worldwide. The one common theme I see is that the whole world is focusing on English as the common language of education as well as business. It is more critical than ever that our students are as proficient in English as possible. I would like to promote increased English language instruction and immersion in English-only classes as soon as possible.
Vázquez – I would ensure that more funding and resources be allocated for ELL programs, especially to have more teachers and education staff to help educate the ELL students.
4. Access to quality, affordable, and culturally competent health care ensures Oregonians are able to thrive and contribute. Please explain the policies you will support to increase access to care, and address health disparities, specifically for immigrants and refugees.
Somoza – When I was a student many years ago in NYC I recall getting health and dental care in elementary school. Those days are long gone but the need is still there. The school system should promote equitable health care as much as possible and work with outside providers that can provide this valuable service to the students.
Vázquez – Because schools are students’ most common venue and source of learning and resources, as well as for their parents – it is important that Health Care awareness and resources be offered at schools. I would support and ensure that programs such as Healthy Kids and the Oregon Health Plan be widely advertised and offered at schools for students and their parents to access and benefit from.
5. What policies relevant to your institution(s) do you support that strengthen economic opportunity and jobs for all communities in Oregon?
Somoza – Bottom line – Education! As the first person in my family to go to a 4-year college I see first hand how important education is to being successful.
Vázquez – I will ensure that more vocational education options be offered in high school and to graduating seniors so that students who are not college/university bound have options to success as well. I would also support policies to make sure more diverse people, especially people of color and ethnic minorities be recruited and employed by the school district.