Hailing from the small agricultural city of El Centro, Anahi-Marcella Sandoval Araiza draws from her upbringing to inform meaningful change for equitable access to education.
A campus junior majoring in global studies and minoring in Arabic and the human rights interdisciplinary, Araiza is taking her passion for financial aid reform to the state level.
“I come from a low-income background,” Araiza said. “There’s a lot of issues that arise from access to education that (not only) make it hard for us to access higher education but even feel like we’re a part of (it).”
From her own experiences growing up, Araiza has worked to make education accessible and affordable to all students on campus. In the 2022-2023 school year, Araiza worked as vice chair of the Fund The UC Campaign in the UC Students Association, tasking herself with the needs of low-income students.
One of her most gratifying achievements came from an effort to lobby the California State Committee on higher education. While Araiza herself submitted testimony to the committee, she also flew students in from various UC campuses to give them an opportunity to share their experiences.
“That moment was really special to me because I was able to talk about my personal experience and why I want to pursue this area of financial aid reform,” Araiza said. “In addition, seeing the students show up is one of the things I always enjoy.”
Acknowledged for her efforts with the UC Student Association, she was nominated for a position on the California Student Aid Commission, or CSAC, and appointed by Gov. Gavin Newsom on Oct. 6.
With a mission of “promoting educational equity by making postsecondary education affordable for all Californians,” according to their official website, positions on the CSAC are highly selective; the commission comprises a 15-member body with 11 governor appointed positions.
Of these, only two are designated for student members.
While Araiza is a freshman committee member, she is excited to have the chance to represent the UC student body in raising awareness for CSAC programs and prioritizing student engagement.
Raised by a single mother in a low income household, her perspective is one felt by many students from disadvantaged backgrounds around California.
“I’m from a community of immigrants so it’s easy to talk about the immigrant experience but not easy to understand what it looks like and the challenges I faced,” Araiza said. “During the pandemic, my mom lost her job and for a short period of time, college looked like something I would have to put on hold or find a different way to finance.”
As a student who understands the challenges of increasing tuition costs and economic instability at home, Araiza has worked hard to hold policymakers accountable.
In 2022, Gov. Newsom and the California Legislature announced a plan to expand the Cal Grant to 150,000 new students with an influx of new funding. Araiza wants to make sure that students actually see this money.
“I worked on advocating for the Cal Grant Equity Framework and taking students to lobby for it,” Araiza said. “I want to make sure that the trigger money set out for this year actually happens.”
This year, Araiza will begin her tenure on the CSAC pending Senate confirmation; she wants to give a platform to students from her background in an attempt to make higher education more equitable for all students.
As Araiza begins her work on the CSAC as a representative of University of California students, she hopes to continue to work as an advocate of financial reform and disadvantaged students. In the future, she plans to work in international human rights law as an advocate for economic justice and equality.
“Higher education is not a linear pathway and financially, (it) shouldn’t be either,” Araiza said.
Correction 10/21/23: A previous version of this article misspelled Anahi-Marcella Sandoval Araiza‘s last name.