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The 2023 CC Student Advisory Council

In April 2022, community college students and community college alumni from across Texas were selected for the new Texas Community College Student Advisory Council (SAC). The SAC followed the work of the Commission, provided feedback and recommendations, and engaged directly with Commission members. SAC members sessions focused on storytelling, policy analysis, media training, legislative training, advocacy, and more. With the goal of the Commission to study trends, examine forecast data and make recommendations to establish a state funding formula and funding levels sufficient for community college success, particularly for students who are underrepresented in higher ed all while gathering stakeholder input, the SAC was keen on following the work of the Texas Commission on Community College Finance in order to help establish recommendations that would improve access and success rates for community college students.

During the 88th Legislative Session (2023) in Texas, members of the SAC have testified at the Capitol before the Senate Higher Education Subcommittee and the House Higher Education Committee in support of proposed legislation based on the recommendations of the Texas Commission on Community College Finance, which the SAC helped advise. The recommendations became House Bill 8 (HB 8). We’re proud to announce that Governor Greg Abbot signed HB 8 into law and now over $680 million of funding will be available to community colleges across Texas, realizing the first step in SAC members’ goal to improve access, support, and outcomes for community college students across Texas.

Hear from the student leaders who made this possible: 


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My name is Ángel García Donjuán and I am a first-generation US American, high school graduate, gap-year-taker, and college student. I like to say that I come from a long line of do-what-you-gotta-doers; both my parents came to the US from Mexico when they were only teenagers to make a better life for themselves. My mom’s parents constantly moved around Mexico in search of work and the generation before theirs was displaced by the Mexican Revolution but persevered to rebuild their village. All of this struggle, while admirable, made it abundantly clear to me that higher education would be key to my own personal success.

My higher education journey began the summer between my freshman and sophomore year of high school when I enrolled in two Dual Credit courses at Dallas College (DCCCD at the time). My counselor advertised all of the great advantages of the program and its unbeatable price tag, “free.99.” Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, Dallas College offered a variety of hybrid, in-person, and 100% remote learning options, all things that made participating in Dual Credit extremely accessible.

The summers I spent completing these courses gave me the opportunity to take on an internship during school time my senior year of high school. My internship helped guide my career path and helped build my professional competencies, both of which would be critical for my gap year in Germany. The amount of credits I was able to build made it easy for me to stay on track with my own personal goals and am now on track to graduate in a few semesters from the University of North Texas with a degree in Urban Policy and Planning. However, I noticed during a conversation with my cousins from the Houston area that Dual Credit was in fact not free for all in the State of Texas as it had been for me.

During that same senior year that I completed my internship, I was accepted into the Dallas Kids First Campaign Fellowship (previously DKF CAMP), where I was fortunate to learn hands-on how the Dallas ISD Board of Trustees operates and interacts with the Texas Education Agency to promote better outcomes for K-12 students. It was through the connections I made through the fellowship that I was introduced to the SAC. I applied and was accepted onto the council during the last stretch of my gap year. This to me was a clear opportunity to build my advocacy and push for expanded access to Dual Credit in Texas.

During more than 12 months on the council, I have learned so much about the policymaking process at the state level as well as the role and power that we have as advocates. I had the pleasure of speaking to community college leaders and a variety of stakeholders in the realm of higher education. I learned how to effectively present my story and make it heard by the right people. I met members of the Commission on Community College Finance, testified before the Senate Committee on Higher Education, and met with individual state lawmakers to make a case for the adoption of a new funding model for community colleges, one that makes room for Texas community college students in the rapidly growing and changing Texas economy.

Aside from the advocacy stuff, the SAC has also given me the amazing privilege of connecting with a variety of community college advocates from so many different and diverse backgrounds. I am so thankful to have met members of the council in Austin on various occasions as well as the kind and supportive staff members that have guided and aided us every step of the way. I feel that the SAC has broadened my horizons and has continuously reminded me of the impact I am capable of having when given the right tools and guidance. Additionally, I feel that the skills and competencies I have gained as a result of the SAC are invaluable as I prepare for a career as an Urban Planner.

It has been so wonderful and inspiring to see how much I’ve grown during my time with the council and I am looking forward to representing the group in New Orleans, Louisiana this month!


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My name is Chelsea Talley. I am a first-generation, parenting student raising two teenagers. I currently hold a position as Vice President of the Student Government Association at my Tarrant County College campus, and I’m on the Board of Trustees for a local non-profit agency working as their client advocate. I’d like to tell you how I came into these positions as a direct result of my involvement with the Texas Community College Student Advisory Council (SAC), including providing testimony for the Senate Subcommittee on Higher Education. My own story will show how you can start this journey for yourself as a student or private citizen.

Community College Advocacy Day
I enrolled at my local community college after trying and failing to get a degree over the past 10 years. I had heard about Sean King giving a lecture at one of the local college campuses and decided to attend. I was so inspired when he said that change begins in your world and if you want to make a change, start small and set reasonable, attainable goals. This could mean something as simple as joining your student council to look for an issue right here at your school and working towards a solution. From there, you can set higher goals once you get your confidence.

So, I joined my Student Government as a Senator and the first opportunity that came up was to participate in Community College Advocacy Day. I took a, “Say Yes!” approach to life and signed up immediately. We took a bus down to Austin as a group and left at 6am. After a large rally on the South Steps after we arrived, we had a meeting with Senator Tan Parker and some of his staff. They were eager to hear about the work our homeless student committee was doing, which included establishing a scholarship to support students at risk of homelessness.

The meeting was well received and the Senator even arranged for us to take  a “dome tour.” We were guided through the historic route up to the top of the Capitol by the Sergeant-at-Arms. The experience was magical and it inspired me to return to Austin to share more of my personal experiences to impact legislators.

Shortly after Community College Advocacy Day, I got an email about joining the Student Advisory Council (SAC). I applied, and when I was accepted, I was and still am a bit in shock. I never knew the potential that I had to hold these leadership roles and positions and now they are so easily attainable for me because I’m doing something worthwhile and because I’ve got a passion for helping others. The first opportunity that came was testimony for HB 8, the “Community College Finance Bill,” that seeks to enact into law many of the recommendations from the Community College Finance Commission, which my earlier fellow SAC members had a hand in. I signed up and hit the road back to Austin. I struggled to get there with my car. I had to get towed from Temple, Texas to Austin, but I showed up, and the SAC team and my fellow SAC members were extremely accommodating due to the hardship it took for me to come.

House Bill 8 (HB 8)

After having a hard trip with my car and other personal stressors I was already nervous arriving the day of testimony. I got to meet Angel and Elias fellow SAC members as well as Kasey, Southern Policy and Advocacy Manager at Young Invincibles, and Will, Associate Director of Policy and Data at Breakthrough Central Texas. Without their support, I would not have been able to make it. We met at the west steps of the Capitol and signed in for testimony. Will and Kasey as well as a few others helped draft and revise our testimony for effectiveness. Will brought copies of our testimony to submit to the subcommittee and then we waited. It was a long day and the anticipation was building. While we waited, we were able to hear testimony from other bills which stirred up a lot of excitement and conversation. When we took a break for lunch, we noticed a group of students from UT Austin doing a sit-in. It was honestly a very invigorating experience to see students come together and show their displeasure with legislation. We were able to hear testimony from some of those students before our bill was heard. When the time came, they called our names four at a time to the table. There are three little lights that indicate when your two minutes begins. Green light. Go time. I got two-thirds through my testimony when the yellow light came on. I was sweating and overwhelmed with nervousness wishing that I was able to make eye contact with the subcommittee but instead I kept my eyes on my paper. I wasn’t quite done when the red light blinked indicating that my time had ended. The committee was kind enough to let me finish and then it was over. I returned home and sent the video that the SAC put on YouTube to my case manager at Helen’s Project.

I was then offered a role as a Client Advocate for Helen’s Project as well as a seat on the Board of Trustees. It all started with a lecture by Sean King that inspired me. Now, I am filling a role that feels as if it was meant for me.

Recently, the Student Advisory Council hosted a policy series on how to facilitate effective meetings with legislators. Here are some tips on how you can advocate for yourself or your community:

Contact your Legislators Office
Do more research about the issues you care about.

Check out some of YI’s recent research:

Financial Health of America (2022)
More Than Self Care: Students Speaking Out For Mental Health (2023)
Women and Parents in the Texas Workforce: Building a Path to Apprenticeship (2022)
Get involved with advocacy organizations, like Breakthrough Central Texas, Ed Trust, and Young Invincibles

If you’re a student, join organizations on your campus like Student Government, Texas Rising, and more!


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Hello, my name is Isabel Torres and I was born and raised in our sunny city of Austin, Texas.  I recently graduated from Austin Community College at the age of 41 with an Associate’s degree. I find passion in helping others and plan to continue my education for a Bachelor’s degree with the sole goal of being able to successfully grow my career while working for Austin Community College in Student Affairs assisting other students through their higher education experience.

I am a non-traditional student, who typically works 2 jobs to make ends meet for my little family of two. In the past, I have attempted twice to earn a degree, but sadly it took my third attempt after being blessed with the birth of my daughter to achieve my goal of earning an associate’s degree. I have always wanted to go to college but like most students life happens and has a way of changing up our plans.

What was the difference you ask between my previous two attempts and my third attempt and why was I successful? Well, for starters as an adult over the age of 25, I was able to apply independently. Being one out of six children, money was always tight.  My parents, though very supportive, could not afford college tuition for six children.

As a student at Austin Community College, I was able to access resources and the support I needed to be successful. I found so many helpful people and resources that I was able to succeed in achieving a college degree and it was a life-changing event for my little family and I. I took on a work-study job in ACC’s Student Affairs office, working alongside the advisors and Dean of ACC’s Eastview Campus, which at a later point turned into a part-time job. Once I completed my degree, I decided to apply for a job within ACC because it had made such an amazing difference in my life that I did not want to leave. I love my job and can finally afford to care for my daughter and myself.

Through my community college, I was introduced to Young Invincibles along with Breakthrough Central Texas and Ed Trust. I saw an announcement that they were looking for students interested in joining the Student Advocacy Council and “learning how to advocate.” I felt compelled to join the Student Advocacy Council. Here was an opportunity to complete another dream to: become an activist, especially having been inspired by women such as Alice Paul and Lucy Burns that advocated for women’s right to vote. I have also always wanted to learn, “how to become an advocate;” because my mother, Margarita Camacho Torres, has always spoken about the importance of voting and embracing our democracy because for women the right to vote was not always a given. My mother has always been someone I have looked up to; someone who always placed her family’s needs before her own.

When I received the news and was welcomed to join the Student Advocacy Committee; I cannot express the excitement of joining this organization. As an Austinite, who wanted to be involved and did not know how to even begin, I have found my foundation and been inspired by so many individuals, who every day try to give a voice to those, like me – people who feel that they have none. Being a part of the Student Advocacy Council has been a dream come true; to have the support and guidance in taking part in our democracy is an experience that I hope for all. On behalf of this Texan, I thank you, Texas Community College Student Advisory Council, for allowing me to be a part of the positive movement of the Texas government.


I turned forty in June 2020. Much like everyone else in Texas I felt trapped, isolated, and anxious about the future. Two unprecedented events, for me anyway, turning forty and a global pandemic, shaped how I viewed the world around me. What was I doing here? What impact was I having? What was my purpose on this planet? Late one night I started googling college. I had always felt a great deal of shame and disappointment with myself for never finishing a degree. I felt like I had missed the boat like I was too old to pursue education or achieve anything meaningful. I ran across a random post on the internet, from a woman who had faced the same situation as myself. She said, “I realized I would turn forty-five either way, but it was up to me if I turned forty-five with a degree or without.” I cannot express how much that one sentence from a stranger whispered to me on the fickle winds of the internet changed the course of my life. I regret that I will never be able to thank that poster. I also decided to make that one of my last regrets. I enrolled at Tyler Junior College for the Fall 2020 semester.

I was seriously afraid of failing again. I had made several failed attempts at community college, the first in 1998, fresh out of high school. I was not ready then. I let all the other concerns in my life take precedence over school and flunked every course that first semester, primarily due to non-attendance. This pattern repeated. At North Harris Community College, then Kingwood Community College (now Lonestar Community Colleges), I failed to thrive. In fact, for the first fifty-seven hours I attempted, I earned a GPA of 0.71. I wrote off college for years after that. I tried again and did marginally better when I attended San Jacinto Community College in the early 2000s. I even managed to pass most of my courses. I still wasn’t ready and again dropped out of school. After all those failed credits and with truly horrible transcripts accumulating around me, I felt that I was not capable of earning a degree. All I really needed was time. When I tried again at TJC I was finally ready to buckle down and excel at my studies. Which I did! I earned and maintained a 4.0 in every course I took at TJC, ultimately graduating summa cum laude in 2022, just before I turned forty-two. I found within myself an eager and talented student who was determined to succeed and make a difference.

In 2021, a few months after my forty-first birthday, I ran for, and was elected, Vice President of Scholarship in the Tyler Junior College Alpha Omicron Chapter of Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society. Phi Theta Kappa changed who I was once again. As the international honor society for two-year community and junior colleges, PTK was tailor-made to support students like me. I was worried that I would never fit in with other students being so much older than so many of them. PTK showed me that fear was unfounded. I was welcomed with open arms by other students, and we worked together to lead our chapter to international accolades. PTK emphasizes involvement with, service to, and giving back within your community. I discovered within myself an enthusiastic helper and committed leader. Not only did I seek to support other students, but I also made a difference. Helping those around me was profoundly gratifying and rewarding.

I learned that once you begin to show up for your community, you discover how much there is to do! So many things need doing, and there are far too few hands for the jobs. I actively sought out different avenues to help and new ways to champion students. That was when I heard about the plans to create a council of students to inform the Commission on Community College Finance. I sent an application straight away and was a nervous wreck during my interview. I was so proud to be selected as one of the twelve students from all over Texas to serve on the Student Advisory Council.

Being a member of the SAC was much more involved than I initially expected! I had a vague notion of what I would be doing when I applied. I thought, “I have tons of opinions; I’d be happy to share them.” That was only a fraction of what was expected of me as a SAC member. We were forged into full-on student advocates. We were brought up to speed on the issues surrounding community college funding and finance and educated on the practical sides of government in Texas. We also received excellent training on the practical skills of advocacy from a skilled panel of experts representing advocacy across Texas who were part of the Texas Postsecondary Advocates Coalition for Equity (TX PACE). Young Invincibles, Breakthrough Central Texas, The Education Trust in Texas, and Every Texan forged this council and honed our skills. They taught us how to craft and deliver a narrative, how to approach college faculty and trustees, how to speak to and work with Texas legislators, how to deal with the media, and how to advocate for and support other students. We then went on to inform others and even train other students on how to be effective advocates.

I had the opportunity to participate on a panel and speak to decision-makers and stakeholders at the 2022 Community College Association of Texas Trustees Conference. I was stunned by how open they were to speaking with us, and I also learned how infrequently they interacted with students. Hopefully, we encouraged them to reach out to the students at the institutions they were steering going forward. I attended the Missed Connections event with Young Invincibles and traveled to Austin to participate during Texas Community College Day in the Capitol. There I was able to train other students to meet with legislators and pass on skills I had learned during my time on the SAC. I put these skills to work by meeting with my Legislators as part of the TJC contingent of students and was pleasantly surprised by how easy those meetings were with my new-found base of advocacy skills. Being able to speak to legislators knowledgeably and sincerely was huge. We even debriefed students from across the state after their meetings.

I also was honored to participate in change as I testified before the Commission on Community College Finance. They not only heard us out but incorporated our suggestions into their final recommendations. I then got to see those changes at work and ultimately testify in support of HB 8, the Community College Finance Bill, before the Texas Higher Education Committee. I had never imagined that I would be sitting before a panel of lawmakers and speaking in support of active legislation. Life is funny like that. I was well prepared for the task and extremely well supported by our team.

I have gone on to remain involved with being a voice and pair of hands in my community. I have attended training and earned certification in the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Student Program from the Office of Multicultural Affairs at Stephen F. Austin State University, where I am now a successful philosophy and creative writing student. And yes, I’ve even kept my grades up and have just been named to the University Presidents Lists for the second time. These experiences have shaped my future as my goals now include returning to teach at a Texas Community College and further mentoring and developing the talents of Texas students.

I will always be proud of my time on the SAC. I will also always be grateful to the advocates who supported and taught us. I do not think I will ever be able to repay Liz, Victoria, Ruby, Jonathan, and Will, among others, for their direct guidance and support. I met and worked with talented students from across the state and will carry their voices and stories with me. I learned many things during my term of service, but the one I believe is most important is that I have a voice and how to use it. I learned that no matter who you are, you can be a leader. No matter where you come from, you can change the world around you. No matter how different you may feel, your voice is necessary and needed to uplift the concerns of those who may not be able to speak for themselves.

If there is one thing I could say to student advocates who come after me, it is that they have power. They can help others locally and those far away. They can speak to those in power. They have a right to demand change. They have the ability to leave their communities better than they found them. They have a duty to make their world a better place. They are up to the task and if they ever need help or support, there are people like me who want nothing more than to help them in their work and to see them succeed. There are organizations like YI, Ed Trust, Every Texan, and Breakthrough Central Texas, staffed with skilled, passionate, and compassionate people who make a change, influence policy, and support the work of advocates. Together we can do mighty things, even when we feel small or overwhelmed. Texas needs such people, and I will be forever grateful that I can be one of them.


Howdy, my name is Brendan Vallis Batchelder. I was born in Denver Colorado and after leaving high school I joined the Marine Corps because I wanted to help others and I  thought school was not for me. While in the Marines, I found my passion for medicine, and I met my wife. By the time my contract ended, I had started a family and realized if I wanted to be a doctor, I needed an education. I did not have a stellar high school transcript and needed a second chance to prove that not only am I ready but that I am capable of attaining an education. I chose to attend Paris Junior College due to the location, affordability, and recommendation from my wife. Less than a month after arriving in Texas, I was enrolled and going to begin school. The first year, although a struggle, went stellar academically, I was performing well in school, but something was missing. Then an opportunity I did not know would alter my life landed in my inbox.

The Texas Student Advisory Council was looking for student voices to represent community college students in a current legislative opportunity, and they wanted representation from my school. My college president sent out an email that made its way to our science division chair, Dr. Jack Brown, and he reached out to me. I never considered myself an advocate, but I eagerly filled out the application, knowing that I would always lend my voice to help others. One application, one scary interview, and a little bit of waiting, and I was told I was one of few across the state selected for this opportunity. When I first joined, the organizers asked me what I had hoped to gain from my work with the SAC, and I stated I wanted to learn advocacy.

In advocacy, the most effective advocates are those well-educated on the issue at hand and on communication. From the beginning, our new mentors within the SAC started teaching us a wealth of knowledge accumulated from years of their experience. I went from not knowing how Texas legislation worked, nor how community colleges were currently funded to knowing how we were strategically going to insert our voice along the process and the possibility we had to change the funding structure for the first time in the past fifty years. I learned how to frame a narrative and what others besides myself were facing when it came to trying to afford their education. We also learned of the existence of the Texas Commission on Community College Finance, its mission, and its role in shaping our future.

Education became action in my first event, which was a panel discussion in Houston for the Community College Association of Texas Trustees event. The recommendations of the commission were being presented at this meeting to the trustees and we were there to offer our insight and opinion on them. This was my first time speaking in front of a crowd, that I had no idea if my voice would be accepted, or what challenges awaited. But I wanted to grow, I wanted to help so I brushed my sweaty palms on my pants, and developed a knot every time the microphone approached me. Then the microphone landed in my hands, in retrospect I talked a little fast, but I raised my voice. If you do not know that first moment when you tell your story and give your opinion, you are left feeling incredibly vulnerable as a new speaker I could not read the room, but I persisted. If the SAC was going to influence the future, we could not do it alone, we needed support and this was my opportunity to garner those to support the future of Texas, and with that, I persisted. At the end of the day, during the social hour, I conversed with many people who were glad that the SAC came and provided a student voice, a new perspective that they had yet to think about, and with that my first successful event was over, I had advocated.

Whoever said public speaking gets easier the more you do it has never met me. One event turned into another, eventually, I got to educate my peers at my school, I got to educate legislative staff during a lunch and learn, and I even got to talk to my representatives during community college advocacy day. Despite the sweaty hands, the slightly less fast speaking, and the knots in my stomach, I was spreading my voice and the Texas legislative session was creeping closer. I was receiving more and more education and training, supporting other members as they provided testimony for the recommendations, which turned into a bill. While also developing two-pagers filled with information, being prepped for interviews, and of course, speaking even more.

Now my time with the Student Advisory Council is approaching its end. We watch with anticipation hoping HB 8 gets passed. The SAC developed something in me that I did not know I had. The SAC taught me that my story provides context for important decisions being made. It taught me that change is the summation of continuous action and that expression, and vulnerability is integral to communication. I will continue to use my voice to build a better future for my family and to build a better Texas for all current and future residents. I am grateful for my time with the SAC and everyone I met during my time as a member.

My name is Brendan Vallis Batchelder. I am a father, a husband, a veteran, a future physician, a product of a community college, and I am an advocate.


Hello, my name is Christian Elizondo, and I am currently a student at San Jacinto Community College. I graduated from Sam Rayburn High School in 2019 and took a leap year to work on my grandparents’ farm up in northern Texas. Coming back to school was something that I wasn’t sure I was ready for, but community college truly has been full of wonderful opportunities that I believe are often overlooked. During my first year of college, I decided to put myself out there and join organizations such as PTK and Student Government, where the president position basically fell in my lap. And since then, I’ve taken any and all opportunities given to me to advocate on others’ behalf.

I had heard about the Student Advisor Council from my wonderful SGA advisor. He said that I would be a fairly good fit, since I was already studying as a paralegal, and so I went out on a limb and applied. And I’m thankful I did, as I’ve learned so much about advocacy and policy, and have met some amazing people from all over the country during my year on the council. I never really knew much about policy, and truthfully, after the 2016 and 2020 elections, politics wore me out. Everyone is extremely tense and partisan, especially on a national level, but my time on the board has really shown me that people on the more local or state level do seem to genuinely care, even if they come to different solutions.

I’ve had amazing opportunities to advocate for community colleges, meeting trustees and my local representatives to talk about and advocate for many of the issues I see on a day-to-day basis. It also equipped me with tons of knowledge and skill, to where I was comfortable dissecting bills for House representatives and being able to answer questions for them. Honestly, this is not something high school me would have ever predicted. But being on the council has been nothing short of one of the most enlightening and wonderful experiences of my life.

I got to travel to many places during my year. My particular favorite was the Texas Tribune Festival, which was held in Austin in October. I still have many vivid memories, and I got to learn so much about topics that I honestly never put much thought into. I know a decent amount about higher education, but during Trib Fest, I was also exposed to new ways at looking at public transport, policing, and many others. All the speakers were wonderful, and it was jam-packed with amazing information that I wish I had known about sooner.

Even though I really enjoyed Trib Fest, I think the peak of my advocacy, so far, was at Community College Advocacy Day at the Capital. I went on behalf of my college, traveling with a few other students and several people who lead San Jacinto Community College, including Chancellor Dr. Hellyr and assistant chancellor Dr. Crawford. It was amazing being able to meet students from all over the state of Texas. Many of them had a similar background, but others were much different in age and experience, and I think that’s something uniquely great about community colleges. That day, I met with three house representatives. I was very confident in myself though, as having Dr. Hellyr with me was an obvious confidence boost, but I also was very comfortable with what policies we were advocating for. The first person I talked to was Mary Ann Perez, who was already aware of what we wanted for community colleges and was more than supportive.

After that, we met Briscoe Cain, a representative of Deer Park. He was more conservative, and thanks to my time on the Student Advisory Council, I already understood that getting his support would have to take a more specific approach. I introduced myself, mentioning that I lived incredibly close to his district in Deer Park. I had asked him if he was familiar with the recommendations, and I could immediately tell that he was unaware, but also not really in support of funding higher education in general. But I was able to convince him after specifically mentioning how the recommendations call for an increase in funding for in-demand degrees and certificates. I knew this would appeal to him as Deer Park is a very industrial region, and with that, he was in support of the recommendations. The rest of the day was nice, as I talked to other students and let them know about our time on the SAC and legislation recommendations we were pushing, along with giving advice on how to advocate as well. Overall, it was a great time and I’m very thankful for that opportunity.

I took what I had learned from the SAC to advocate on behalf of something I’m very passionate about. And even outside of political advocacy, the skills I’ve learned have helped me advocate for things that are more local or just affect my college. It instilled confidence in me and made me much more efficient in discussing ideas and being both convincing and confident.


My name is Montoya Thomas. I’m located in the Houston area. I recently graduated from Lone Star College-University Park. In March 2023, I was presented with the opportunity to be a part of the SAC Board. Traveling back and forth to Austin has given me new insight on House bills, and it
showed me how to find out who my representative is and how to contact them through email and telephone. I never imagined being able to testify on any bill, including HB8. Being a part of this opportunity showed me despite my circumstances and past, my voice matters, and I can become
a part of the change for others within my community. I was taught to be patient, breathe, and be consistent with Texas representatives.

During my time here, I spoke with many others alongside Sheila Jackson Lee about women’s health rights, and sharing my story and hearing heartfelt stories showed that we are in this together. I wish I was able to continue, but unfortunately, every beginning has an end. What I want to do is continue encouraging other young adults to use their


Hello world, my name is Elias Ramirez. I am a first-generation Mexican American born on Galveston Island and raised in Texas City, TX, on the Gulf Coast. I recently graduated from Texas City high school class of 2021, where I led many student organizations, including the environmental science club called Green Stings. I am in my last semester at College the Mainland, where I will be graduating with my associate in general studies. I then plan to transfer to the University of Houston Clear-Lake to pursue my bachelor’s in Public Service Leadership. On campus, I am the president of the community engagement club, where we focus on voter registration, community engagement, and networking opportunities. Going into the fall semester, we will be merging with the Science Club, known as the Community Science Club. My job currently is at the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Houston, where I am a STEAM instructor, where I get the opportunity to interact with the future generation and inspire them to pursue their goals and dreams.

Community College Day at the Capitol

I first got introduced to Community College Day by our Title V Director at my community college. It was a two-day trip where we got to spend the night at a Holiday Inn suite in Austin, where I surprisingly got a room to myself. It wasn’t my first time in the capital since I was involved in local county politics. I was excited to attend the event and advocate for our local legislators, but I wasn’t excited to meet them due to my partisanship. I remember arriving at the capital as it was surprisingly chilly, and a big crowd was in front of the North entrance. That’s where we met Representative Van Dever, where he introduced the Texas community college refinancing committee and told us all about advocacy and how to advocate to our legislatures. Throughout that day, we met with our State Representative Terri Leo Wilson, and Senator Mayes Middleton. I asked him about local issues in Galveston County and issues with the redistricting committee. I found all the advocacy and information helpful, but by the end of the day, I was exhausted and was excited to get back home. When I got home, I did not expect anything from the advocacy group that organized the event, but to my surprise, I did find an email to join an advocacy group called the Student Advisory Committee. I applied, not expecting much. To my surprise, they contacted me back and wanted to have an interview with me. That’sThat’s where it all started my journey with the student advisory Council as a representative from College the of the Mainland.

Testimony Day for SB 2539

When I first signed up to testify, I did not know what to expect, but I was out for the challenge and ready to leave my comfort zone. I remember trying to find transportation and having difficulty finding one since my car, “La Carcacha,” meaning a beat-up car in Spanish, would not make it to Austin, so I asked my sister to let me borrow her car for the day trip, and to my surprise again she agreed! I had to work that day, so I left around 9:30 PM; it was about a three 1/2-hour drive to Austin, and I arrived at midnight. I had somebody keep me company the whole time over the phone. A good friend of mine, and her name is Courtney. That way, I wouldn’t fall asleep on my way to Austin. When I arrived in Austin, I was hungry, and I felt a little scared since this was my first time going somewhere alone. I woke up the next morning around 6ish to recite my testimony and was anxiously waiting to meet everyone and get the process started. I had breakfast at the hotel and got ready to head down to the capital, where the arrival time was 8AM; I was the first to arrive! An accomplishment since I am usually late, I met Chelsea Talley, Will Davies, and Angel Don Juan, other members from SAC. We went into the capital, which was full of students, tourists, advocates, and legislators! We explored a little but eventually made it to the committee room and signed up, ready to go! We thought that our bill would be one of the first ones to get read, but we thought wrong, it took most of the day to get through all the testimonies from the other bills being read. During that time, we ate lunch, and I explored the capital, where I joined some protesters against the anti-DEI bill going through the committee. I remember the feeling of going back into the committee room and getting ready to testify in support of our bill, there were butterflies in my stomach, and I just felt anxious. I then hear my name being called to testify and get up to the desk where the microphone is at. I felt like I sunk into the seat, and my palms started to feel sweaty, my heart racing, and I began my testimony. The timer in front of me begins, and I start my testimony; I stutter here and there and even lose my place on my testimony. I was embarrassed, but nonetheless, I finished my testimony with only 30 sec overtime. After me goes Chelsea, and then after Angel, where they do a fantastic job and end right on time! We stay until everything finishes, and then we get ready to head home! I was not finished for the day, however! I was on a mission to meet one of my role models, State Representative James Talarico. When we were released, I had plans to go to San Antonio to visit some campaign staff, but I headed outside and heard some cheering at the north side of the capitol building. It was a protest by construction workers demanding more safety regulations for job sites from construction companies in the state. I joined them in their protest, and to my surprise, Representative Talarico was joining them as well! During the protest, there was a demonstration of planting seeds with soil, representing the growth of a new generation! I was in awe! Afterward, I followed Representative Talarico to his office, and I was able to meet him! I told him to keep on putting in the good work and that he is an inspiration to future leaders in the state! I told him I was running for office, and he said I was inspiring. I did not know what to say or how to react. I appreciated Representative Talarico’s time and went on my merry way to San Antonio.

With the experience I gained from the Student Advisory Council, I was able to see how the legislative process works and how much work it takes to advocate for a bill. My plan is to advocate for voter rights, especially in Galveston County. I recently ran for office and even saw the candidate’s viewpoint on the people who run for office. Although I was unsuccessful in my race, I plan on running again since my career goal is to make it to the U.S. Senate. SAC helped me understand how organizations and ordinary people engage with the legislature and how that process works. From the bill being drafted to it being heard in committee, to the bill going to the floor to vote and making it to the other chamber, etc., it is an extensive process, and SAC helped me better understand these processes. I have graduated from my community college and am now off to university in the fall; I am excited to expand on the connections I have made in SAC. I cannot wait to see what the future holds!


The Student Advisory Council is organized and supported by Young Invincibles, The Education Trust in Texas, Every Texan, and Breakthrough Central Texas as a joint initiative of the Texas Postsecondary Advocates Coalition for Equity (TX PACE). The student members of the Council include first-generation college students, armed forces veterans, student government leaders, and Texans of diverse races, ethnicities, ages, and backgrounds. Please check out the Texas PACE website to read more about the SAC’s work: