Class of 2018
SBA Representative at Large
Hometown: San Jose, CA
Undergraduate: UC Santa Barbara
Major: Political Science & Environmental Studies
Brandon Chaidez has seen first-hand how poverty and the accompanying challenges of gang violence, drug addiction and early pregnancy prevent individuals who come from those circumstances to leave. But he has also seen-and experienced-how education can give people opportunities for change.
Brandon grew up in San Jose, and his father was incarcerated when Brandon was three years old, leaving his mother to work constantly to raise five children on her own. When Brandon began work on his undergraduate degree, it inspired his mother to go to college, and she earned her AA as a paralegal. Brandon shadowed an attorney his mom was working with to a sentencing, which made Brandon realize he wanted to go into law.
He explained: "I watched the judge ask a man if he had the money to pay a fine, and even though the man had earlier said that he had no job and was barely getting by, he answered yes. I thought it was heartbreaking that the man didn't understand and that his attorney didn't seem to care about helping him avoid this fine. I am in law school as an advocate for such people."
One of the things that attracted Brandon to McGeorge, he says, was the clinic in which students can draft legislation and then lobby state politicians to endorse the legislation and perhaps make it into law. He is now an active participant in the Legislative and Public Policy Clinic working on a bill that would advance statewide public safety concerns.
Brandon's future goals don't just include completing law school and working as a legal advocate for people from neighborhoods like the one he grew up in. Brandon also wants to be an elected official representing the South Bay area.
"Many of the underprivileged feel they do not have a voice, and the desperation in that community is something I haven't forgotten," said Brandon. "It is anything but easy, but I have been presented an opportunity to make a difference for not only my life, but for others."
Brandon got to see high-level politics up close during a college internship at the White House. The highlights? "I hit a game-winning three on the South Lawn basketball court, met both President Obama and the First Lady, and heard a speech by President Clinton," said Brandon.
Brandon is currently serving as the Student Bar Association (SBA) Representative at Large. "Serving the student body of McGeorge and having a say in the major developments around campus has been humbling and resulted in a better understanding of how to better coordinate with my colleagues while also promoting the best policies for McGeorge," he said.
He knows he's lucky. "I managed to escape the cycle of poverty and violence and I'm ready to go back and make a different in my community," said Brandon.