Before Southwestern College student Kiara Mora ever even decided to run for president of the Associated Student Organization, she had already made history. Mora was the first student to fully campaign online for student government. She is the first ASO president to take office in the middle of a pandemic and she will be the first ASO president who will represent a student body who will primarily be online.
Now, Mora, along with other student leaders in the ASO, are working to navigate the extraordinary challenges she and Southwestern College students will face in the upcoming academic year.
We chatted with Mora to learn more about her life as a student, why she decided to run and her plans to move the ASO forward and continue to serve students.
Tell us a little bit about yourself, who you are and your life as a student at Southwestern College.
My name is Kiara Mora and my pronouns are she/her/hers. I just finished my first year at Southwestern College and will be going into my second year. I am a first-generation, Mexican-American, bisexual college student. I literally lived my entire first year of college at Southwestern due to my active involvement. My college career started in the summer of 2019 right after graduating from Hilltop High School. Once fall semester started I became a part of one of the four learning communities known as the Puente Project.
Later on, I was able to work for the Office of Student Equity Programs and Services. That is where a lot of my work pertaining to ensuring student success began to grow. It was amazing being able to reach out to students, see what they needed and follow through by putting on events that promoted equity, understanding and accountability. Working with students has become a passion of mine and I’m glad to have realized that early on in my academic trajectory.
Why did you want to get involved with the Associated Student Organization?
When I first started Southwestern College in the summer, I was a recent high school grad. I didn’t have any titles. I didn’t have a name for myself. I didn’t have anything special. I was just an ordinary student. Then through the EOPS Summer Readiness Program, which was the foundation of where I started, I realized that my voice had power. I was able to deliver a speech at the end of the Summer Readiness Program and after that, there were so many opportunities that became available for me and I was like, “Whoa, this can happen?”
After that, I started to venture outside of just being a student and I realized that I could become a student leader. I became President of the Puente Club, Vice President of A.Ch.A. (Association of Chicana Activists) and a member of the Sexuality and Gender Acceptance Club. I began to immerse myself into communities that held value to my identity, because at the time I wasn’t sure of who I was. I was still trying to find myself and my voice. I found it by getting involved and helping students.
I realized that that is a common narrative among students at Southwestern College, you know, it’s a process. It’s a journey, you’re finding your voice, you’re finding yourself. I realized that I could use my platform that I had built for myself and that many had helped me build as well to give back to our Southwestern College community.
Genuinely when I think of myself as a leader, I think of someone that has a lot of corazón (heart) and you don’t see that a lot nowadays. So I think that’s something that is very important to contribute to Southwestern College, especially during times like these. You need a lot of heart. You need people who care, you need people who genuinely listen and will act. That is who I am and that is why I decided to get involved in ASO.
What are the ASO’s plans for the fall semester? How are you going to function in a way that continues to serve students?
We can’t physically sit with one another and have conversations in person, so the current ASO is working online much like everyone else. Our team was sworn in on June 4 and already we’ve gotten to work. We’ve started attending trainings via Zoom. We have started participating in hiring communities so that students will continue to have a say in who Southwestern College hires to support us throughout our college careers. I just want to reassure students that your ASO is working towards bettering our community, we’re pushing through, and we’re going to make it possible.
Our plan for this semester is to uplift student voices and see where we can meet their needs. Southwestern College has students from different backgrounds with countless obstacles that they are facing, COVID-19, as well as the social and civil unrest, have revealed this. What this means is that each and every one of us can do better.
I also want to mention that there is an entire team alongside me ready to get things done. Every student leader serving in the ASO has a unique and powerful presence with the intention to help and uplift student voices. So we’re going to build bridges, meet students where they are. We’re going to work to provide them with resources and we’re not only going to listen, but also take action. There’s a lot going on in the world, but we’ll be doing our part as students to continue moving Southwestern College forward.
What’s your advice for new and continuing students to find success as Southwestern College operates through online and distance learning for the fall?
What I want to say right now is that times are tough, but so are you. Students at Southwestern College are very resilient and y’all need to remember that. Whether you’ve been with us or you’re joining our family, know that you’re not going through this alone. The ASO has your back. The staff, faculty and administration do too. We’re all here to help one another so if you need anything, reach out and ask us for help.