AS Election 2016: Meet presidential candidate Daira Bustos

Eighteen-year-old Daira Bustos, Communication Studies major and Stanford hopeful, wakes up early in the morning to walk 20 minutes to get to the bus stop, where she proceeds to take a series of four buses to get to school. She’s taking 20 units, is on the debate team, is the Treasurer and ICC delegate of the Bernie Club, and has an internship at Public Counsel, the biggest pro-bono law firm in the nation, working in the immigration department. Now, she’s running for Associated Student (AS) president. “[Most students] feel so trapped in this 'I don’t have time to go to college,' but you do,” Bustos said, “And I want to empower these people through my personal vision of what I’m doing myself. They can reflect on me that I also can do it, not just because I’m a Latino woman that’s low income. I can do big things.”

Bustos said that she sees the main problem SMC faces as the disconnect students feel from the school. She aims to combat this by raising awareness of AS and the various programs and clubs that are available to them.

“I can reach out through many students who will say ‘I don’t care,’” Bustos said, “because I’ve been in that position where I don’t care, and it got me here to SMC. It got me here to be a part of the debate team, and compete at Nationals actually in a few days. It got me to be part of this law firm that’s incredible.”

Bustos is part of the slate, or faction, “Unity.” Upon the initial creation of the slate, Bustos said what was originally supposed to be a two hour-long meeting turned out to be 5 hours of strategy and concept development. According to her, during this initial meeting the individuals that came to form the group found that their ideas correlated more than they had initially expected.

“We just talked about our platforms,” Bustos said. “Everybody agreed, this is what we need for SMC. We’re not doing this to have it on our transcript. We’re not doing this to be the popular kids in school. We’re doing this for SMC.”

Bustos stated that the slate decided on the name “Unity” to reflect the diverse voices in the group, as well as the college.

According to Bustos, the emphasis of Unity is on group effort, with focus on individual performance as a means of reflecting the capability of the school. To express this sentiment, the group created the hash tag, #notmeSMC.

“At first I was feeling a little un-empowered, because I’m a girl. I’m low income,” Bustos said. “What can I give this very recognized institution? What can I do?”

She said her friend and fellow debate team member Alfredo Gama proposed that she run for the position.

"After I decided to run for Student Trustee, I immediately thought of Daira to be in my slate. There was no other place I could see Daira but as the President of the Associated Students of Santa Monica College," Gama said over Facebook message.

“He was like, ‘people look up to you, and you do all these great things. You could totally do it,’” Bustos said.

Bustos said that Gama's encouragement was what ultimately convinced her to run. There was the initial concern about running against two prominent members of the student body— the president of the Black Collegians Club and the current vice president of AS.

“It leaves me an average student, but then again the average student is the one who should be more connected to other students," Bustos said. "Because I also, like other students, live the same thing. I also take the bus to school. I also want to take a food voucher… I feel like I, on a personal level, and also on an academic level, understand every average student.”

When asked about who the most important person in her life is, Bustos said her mother, an undocumented immigrant. With her father in prison due to issues relating to immigration status, Bustos said that her mother was left without income when she was growing up.

“It’s hard for her, and hard for me,” Bustos said. “I’m doing this for my mom. Once I turn 21, I could petition for her. It’s my biggest goal in the future. I want her to be proud of me.”

Initially, Bustos had trouble deciding whether to work part-time and go to school part-time, but ultimately her mother's influence pushed her to go to school.

“I call her my wonder woman,” Bustos said. “Without her, I wouldn’t survive through all this and because of her I’m doing all the things that I do.”