By Price Communications Staff
“Nothing could have prepared me for this situation,” said Jorgel Chavez, a USC Price student who ran for city councilmember of Bell Gardens while completing his progressive master of public administration degree. “I was running against two previous incumbents and one current incumbent, and I only raised $6,600…I knew I was the underdog. And so, I took to the streets.”
“I got on my skateboard and went around my city, knocking on doors and asking for support with the help of my friends, family and neighbors. I campaigned on a platform that was of, by and for the residents of Bell Gardens – where I grew up, and where I’ve always wanted to make a difference.”
In the end, Chavez beat the odds and won by 899 votes, becoming the youngest councilmember at 23 in Los Angeles County.
“I loved every moment of my campaign. I am grateful for the opportunity my neighbors granted me, and I will not let them down.”
Chavez’ vision for Bell Gardens is personal, and rooted in the power of public administration. “I’m on a mission to advocate on behalf of La Raza and Mi Gente by representing their voice. I hope to bring unity and effective strategic planning to the council. We have urgent issues to tackle, like addressing the rise of homelessness and uniting Southeast Los Angeles communities. I hope to create a coalition of elected officials, nonprofits and departments that will continue to advocate for county, state and federal government to assist our communities as we face ongoing disparities.”
Jorgel Chavez’s journey to becoming a city councilmember started way back in 2015, when he graduated from Bell Gardens High School with a vision to one day serve his community. He applied to over 15 universities. Unfortunately, the outcome he received wasn’t what he expected.
“I got rejected by all the universities, except for San Francisco State University,” Chavez said. He selected his sole option, but then his admission was moved from Fall 2015 to Spring 2016. “I was left in Southern California for an extra semester with no job and no plan,” Chavez said.
He pushed forward, ultimately deciding to enroll at Long Beach City College for the Fall 2015 semester before beginning school in San Francisco in the spring. When it came time to start school, life threw him another curve-ball. “My first semester at SFSU turned out to be my final semester. The financial burden of a four-year institution became a reality and took a toll on my family,” Chavez explained.
Still, he was determined to succeed. “My parents never went to high school and my mother was undocumented when she arrived from Mexico. So, being a first-generation, low-income, Chicanx, transfer student presented challenges,” he said.
Chavez returned to Long Beach City College and pursued not one, but two associate of arts for transfer programs: one in political science and another in communication studies. Two and a half years passed, and he reapplied to the same schools that had once rejected him.
This time, he was accepted into all of his top choices.
Chavez finally decided on the institution that felt most in-line with his personal mission: the University of Southern California and ultimately, the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy. He enrolled in fall of 2018 as a Norman Topping Student Aid Fund Scholar and is on-track to graduate with a joint master of public administration from USC Price and bachelor of political science from USC Dornsife, along with a minor in communications, policy, and law from USC Annenberg.
“From the first day I met Jorgel, when he began at USC as a Topping Scholar, he shared his love of politics and his desire to run for local office. The more he shared and vocalized his goals, the more he committed to them and took action to make them a reality,” said Trista Beard, Director of the USC Topping Scholars Program. “All along the way, he has been encouraging and inspiring his peers as well. Jorgel is committed to a life in public service and has been active in public life since he was 16. We are looking at the rise of a lifelong community advocate. He represents the best of USC’s values – scholarly, skillful, faithful, courageous, and ambitious.”
Jorgel Chavez’s vision for a stronger future is a perfect example of the Price School’s mission in action. “I chose USC Price because of the impact and influence it has throughout the public administration field. I believe that the education that USC Price provides to its students is exceptional as it provides them to become community and global leaders,” he explained.
“Considering I am still a students at USC, my studies, overall, were of great influence and support. All what I’ve learned throughout my years at USC and my time in Long Beach City College greatly influenced my decision to get involved in local government. The courses offered in USC Price are beyond what I could have ever expected in terms of preparing me for the decisions I will be making while in office. The professors are also amazing and I am truly grateful for the opportunities USC Price has given me.”
“I can say that everyday my level of confidence only continues to grow as I know I am receiving the best education out there,” he continues.
When it came to learning outside of the classroom, Chavez remarked on how much his 2020 campaign taught him about real-world politics. “Strategy, messaging and patience are of the highest importance when it comes to running for any elected office!” he shared.
Now, he’s looking to the future. “I believe that many cities throughout southeast Los Angeles have set a standard as communities of scandals and corruptions; I want to address and change that,” he said. “Many residents and community members are hardworking people who earn their living with their blood, sweat, and tears. Without them, I would not be where I am today.”