Yesterday we published my interview with Undergraduate Student Government (USG) Presidential and Vice Presidential candidates Michael Hernández and Guilmar Valle. Today, you can read all about my conversation with their opponents, Jase Rafael Valle and his running mate Guymara Manigat.
Presidential candidate Jase Rafael Valle of Bridgeport, Connecticut, has a long history of advocating for students and marginalized perspectives here at the University of Connecticut. Valle is the President of Upsilon Sigma, the Urban & Community Studies (UCS) honor society. UCS is a small group of students focused on community outreach and localized community service. Although COVID-19 has made their opportunities to volunteer more difficult, they are still working together with UConn’s branch campuses to plan future outreach.
One of Valle’s greatest passions is the Puerto Rican/ Latin American Cultural Center (PLRACC), where he works as a student administrative assistant. As part of his role at the center, Valle deals with the Vice President for Student Affairs, which involves, according to him, “advocating on behalf of the center for the issues that have to do with diversity, equity and inclusion when it comes to our center, funding and any pertaining issue that directly impacts our student body.” With advocating diversity, Valle hopes for greater assistance from students who are not Latinx but are still interested in helping out. He was pleased to share that this year has seen the most diverse group of students at the center.
During his freshman year, Valle was a part of the Student Union Board of Governors (SUBOG). Recalling one of his favorite memories from his experience, Valle said,
“I was notorious for bringing a blind chef [to speak at the Union],” Valle said, recalling one of his favorite memories from his experience. “We got to talk about blind culture and what it meant to be a blind chef in a world where [the blind and deaf are stigmatized]. For a profession where you expect you have to see, you really don’t need to.”
Valle is also a writing tutor at the Writing Center, a teaching assistant and has a job at Cumberland Farms. During his sophomore year, he was a residential assistant living in Northwest. He reflected very positively on the experience, commenting on how much he loved his residents and that he still keeps in touch with some of them. In another connection between the two, his running mate, Manigat, was the WOW leader for his first set of students.
Valle’s biggest goal is creating a campus environment where all students feel safe regardless of their views or needs.
“I want to make people feel like they can come in here and speak and advocate not only for themselves but the students they represent,” he said. “I love bringing different students together who may not agree […] That’s something I really enjoyed about coming to UConn. I meet people from different perspectives and we can have conversations where we agree to disagree but still have a progressive discussion.”
“I want to make people feel like they can come in here and speak and advocate not only for themselves but the students they represenT.”
Alongside Valle and running for Vice President of USG is Guymara Manigat from Stratford, Connecticut. Combining a firm commitment to racial justice and medical service, Manigat works across disciplines to achieve equity and aid for students at UConn and people in other parts of the world.
Formerly its president, Manigat is now a senior advisor for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) at UConn. Through her position in the NAACP, it has been her responsibility to approve programming and organizing done by the organization, especially in terms of voter education, voter registration, social justice and environmental justice. As president last year, Manigat was able to facilitate a town hall meeting addressing racial climate on campus and feelings of alienation among students of color. She also helped lead the March of Solidarity, which combined a focus on environmental justice, women’s rights and social justice.
Manigat had the unique role of organizing the March Against Racism last year. Although this was her first time planning such an event, Manigat was able to rely on collaboration from her fellow students and Dr. Price to organize in a way that would properly address the feelings of all involved. Nonetheless, the process proved challenging, as she had to oversee the search for speakers, the planning of dates and locations and methods of advertising the march to students.
Manigat is also the vice president of the Medlife chapter at UConn. Manigat describes Medlife as a “service learning organization in which we volunteer in developing countries that don’t have equal access to health care.” Like Valle’s efforts through UCS, volunteer work has been made difficult due to the pandemic, but that has not stopped Manigat and the other students in Medlife from figuring out ways to assist people in need. Currently, they are focusing on fundraising efforts and sending meal packages to families. These packages last a few weeks and offer support to families who may have lost work due to the coronavirus and are in need of food and basic necessities.
When not engaged with one of these organizations, Manigat works as a recovery assistant with people who have mental illnesses.
“I go to their house every day or every few days and walk them through building a routine for themselves and making sure that I’m aiding them,” Manigat explained. “The process is for them to live a more independent life.”
Despite their busy schedules, Valle and Manigat still manage to find time for themselves. Manigat uses her time to read and educate herself further on issues of social justice, particularly as it relates to the Black community. Valle enjoys de-stressing through hiking and meditation.
“Practicing meditation has been my way of keeping sane because I’m always busy and I overload myself,” said Valle. “I try to make sure I make myself clear headed and clear minded to make sure my internal spirit is good before I can start helping others.” https://www.instagram.com/p/CFsFdb7gyAH/
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