Talking to a Drexel Alumnus who is running for L.A. City Council

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of grabbing coffee with Drexel Alumnus, Jamie Tijerina, who is running for a city council seat in Los Angeles's 14th district. 


The coffee time initially was to catch up on life and see how the other was doing. We met one another through an a cappella group on campus and always shared a love for music. But almost as soon as we sat down, Jamie and I quickly dove into the difficulties of trying to lead our own paths in fields that aren’t necessarily set up for our current selves. For me, it is creating a startup business. For Jamie, it is running for city council.


Throughout the conversation, I felt inspired. 


Sharing an interest in psychology and sociology, our conversation lead us to some interesting societal observations. We discussed the possibility that adaptability is in some ways penalized in our current political system. If someone changes their opinion after being presented with new information, they may be seen as “wishy-washy” and un-knowledgeable, or easily swayed. HOWEVER, Jamie and I both agreed that to us, there is strength in admitting, “You know what, I was wrong!” People from younger generations ADMIRE this and see it as something to look for in a candidate. It is clear that Jamie has that strength. 


Jamie brought up her experiences, using them only to show understanding of a political system that might need to shift in order to provide the upcoming generation a “way in”. Jamie explained to me that the seat she is running for has not yet been held by a woman, a millennial, or a person educated in the field of science (all things she is excited to represent). She told me, “I’ve been the youngest person in a lot of spaces.” Paired with a note about often times being “the only Latina in the space” (she is half Latina and half Middle Eastern), it was easy to see why Jamie might have felt alone at times. With this though, she said that in a way she is “trying to prove a point” that the system is not set up for us, but that we can make it better if we fight for our voices to be heard.  


Image courtesy of Boyle Heights Beat


Jamie has grown to see that not very many of her peers even believe that running for local government is an option for them. Jamie shared with me a few of the logistical components that made it tough for a young, full-time worker from the community to be involved in the system. One of these components was that city council meetings are often in the middle of the day. She explained that a lot of community members don’t have a flexible job situation or financial situation to take off from work to run for a position, let alone participate in the meetings. 


Beautifully, Jamie talked about how “winning” is on a spectrum for her. Conventionally, many see winning an election as just winning a seat, but it is more than that. It's about opening the door for new ideas, conversations, and opportunities. She hopes her campaign will make running for office feel more accessible to people in her community and encourage them to get involved. “I don’t think there is any loss in this [situation]. If they see this person doing this, they may feel empowered to do it too.”