2014 Young Legislators

Samuel Guerra
Speaker of the Young Legislators Program

For many years, I've aspired to become a politician. Since I was a child, I admired government and pledged to become politically active when the time came. The Young Legislators Program has provided me with a visceral experience towards understanding the California State Legislature. I successfully campaigned for the Speaker of the Assembly position in the program, fueling my ambition to lead, and giving me even an greater desire to pursue a political career. There is no greater joy in life than gaining trust and admiration from our peers. Having said so, the Young Legislators Program has granted me the opportunity to connect with such great students. Despite cultural or social barriers, we've united as members of this program to positively affect our communities. I'm currently enlisted into the United States Marine Corps as a Public Affairs Specialist. This will provide me with the path necessary to assert that I'm willing to overcome any obstacle and turn it into an opportunity to improve my character, and hopefully, exemplify moral and principle. My expected ship-date for Marine Corps Boot Camp is on November 3, 2014. As Robert Byrne once claimed, “The purpose of life is a life of purpose.” Through my eyes, life serves no greater purpose than assisting your neighbors and being a positive role model. I would like to sincerely thank and show my gratitude to Patrick Sunpanich and the Assemblymember Cristina Garcia for this wonderful experience.

Nijanth Velmanikandan
Majority Leader of the Young Legislators Program

My name is Nijanth Velmanikandan and I currently attend Whitney High School in Cerritos, CA. In the fall, I will be attending Babson College and will be majoring in Business with a concentration in Finance. During high school, I have been actively involved in numerous activities and have held positions such as the Head Delegate Affairs Officer for Model United Nation, Co-President of Mock Trial, an Eagle Scout for Boy Scouts of America, and on the side I work as a freelance filmmaker. In the future I hope to work in the business side of film at a big film studio.

James Flores
Chief Clerk of the Young Legislators Program

During this program, I have learned that even a student like me can make a difference in my community with dedication and hard work. I plan to come to my community, be a teacher, and soon run for city council. I would like to thank Cristina Garcia for creating this program and Patrick Sunpanich for being helpful to me.

Viviana Gomez
I’m currently a senior at Norwalk High School. I plan to attend UCLA this upcoming fall with a major in Business Economics. I hope to gain skills in college that will prepare me to be successful in whatever I decide to do. While being in the Young Legislators Program, I have definitely matured not only as a student but also as a person. Being in this program has definitely inspired me to experiment more with political science in college. It has also brought my attention to the many issues that we have here in the State of California. The Young Legislators Program has given me insight on how legislators work behind the scenes while also explaining how legislation is passed. This program has provided several opportunities to meet and network with important people. Another great thing about this program is the fact that everyone has to dress professionally. I think this definitely challenges each of us and ensures that we look professional and presentable at every event. I am very grateful that I was chosen to be a part of this crazy-talented and intelligent group. The program was a great investment in time and absolutely worth it. I’m excited for what awaits me in the near future–college!

Juan Rodriguez
Born and raised in Downey. I attend Downey High School and I am a member of the graduating class of 2014. I enjoy vehicles. My father and I refurbished a ’57 Volkswagen Beetle and a ’64 Bel Air. I also like Sports. Go Raiders, Go Dodgers, Go Lakers! Kobe Bryant is the greatest NBA player of all time! Anyway, I plan to major in Business and start my own real estate company. However, politics has always been an interest of mine as well. I wouldn't be surprised if I changed my major while attending Rio Hondo College.

Jacob Flores
I attend Norwalk High School and I enjoy spending time with my friends and just having fun. Not only am I a hard worker but I also like to try new things. I would say I am outgoing with a positive attitude!

Varshini Satish
Greetings! I am a part of the 2014 class of Cerritos High School (CHS). In Fall 2014, I will be joining the University of Santa Barbara as a Political Science (with a concentration in International Relations and Comparative Politics) and Philosophy double major. I am an active member of the CHS Model United Nations nationally ranked program, and have served as: Delegate Affairs Officer (2012-13), Under Secretary General of Delegate Affairs (2013-14), and as head chair for four conferences at the high school and middle school levels. As a member of the Arpana Dance Company, a South Indian classical international dance company, I have had the privilege of touring Eastern Europe during the summer of 2013 to perform the Bharata Natyam dance form. I have served as Legislative Assembly Head (2012-13) as well as Co-President (2013-14) for the CHS Junior State of America Debate Team. As of 2013, I was crowned Miss Artesia Princess for the 2013-14 Royal Court. In my spare time, I love to read novels dating from the 20th century and earlier, watch movies, travel, and spend time with my friends and family. In the future, I hope to implement the skills and knowledge I have gained from the Young Legislators Program both at the domestic and international level on issues ranging from political systems in the Middle East to women’s rights.

Anass Malabeh
Current gladiator at Gahr High School, soon to be an anteater at UC Irvine. As of now, I’m highly interested in public speaking, so I decided to join Model United Nations and join Assemblymember Cristina Garcia’s Young Legislators Program. As a Young Legislator, I have learned a lot about the political process that most citizens do not see (such as relationships that politicians have between Coca-Cola and county sanitation plants). In addition, I realized that the people representing us in our City Councils and Sacramento are not boring politicians who have a grudge against young people. They have a sense of humor; they have compassion and logic; they are human. For college and beyond, I plan to major in Computer Engineering. Fast computers can solve the mathematical mysteries of the universe, and that is what I would like to do: solve the mysteries that have baffled humans for centuries.

Vanessa Orozco
The Young Legislator program has been a very positive experience in my life. I have experienced great opportunities that I wouldn't have been able to participate in if I were not involved in the YLP. The program encouraged me to further my studies of political science in college.

Angel Hernández
Born and raised in East Los Angeles, most of my childhood consisted of baseball and only baseball, including travel and tournament teams. I attended a school like no other, Academia Semillas Del Pueblo, a charter school that has a curriculum teaching classes such as Nahuatl and “Aztec math.” After moving to Monterey Park, I attended Schurr High School, which was a “whole new world.” I struggled my freshman year, but began exceling in the classroom and on the field (I played baseball in high school as well). Aside from baseball, I also joined AVID. My senior year was the best; I was voted senior class president, an accomplishment that had me more involved in school and clubs. The 58th District’s Young Legislators Program stood out to me. The Y.L.P. has taught me much, from the foundation of government, to how the water and irrigation system works. It has been a real honor to be involved with a prestigious program like the Y.LP. During the fall of 2014, I will be attending the University of Arizona, majoring in Psychology. I plan to be a sports psychologist for the MLB Association.

Dhruvi Chauhan
Well, the first thing you have to know about me is how to pronounce my name. It’s pronounced Dhruvi like groovy. Yes, Groovy Dhruvi is a nickname that has stuck with me for a while now…but I work with it. Hello! I am part of the Class of 2014 at Whitney High School, from Cerritos, CA. I live with my super amazing parents and have a strong bond with my family. I have found a love and knack for writing at a young age, and I read anything and everything. Besides that, I am a huge fan of the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Radiohead. I love spending my time, quite shamelessly splurging on the Internet, listening to these bands or watching my favorite television shows. I also love to hang out with my friends (who doesn’t?) and read interesting articles, discuss them with people, and try to learn something new and valuable every day. From my wide variety of interests, I hope you can see that I am an open-minded person. I consider myself relatively liberal and my passion for social justice and especially feminism has made me more and more curious about government and society. I think living in the U.S is an honor that I am grateful for every day. I think it is great to live in such an amazing time for advancement and progress – especially for women. But I also think, we still have a lot of issues to resolve.

Karan Bhakta
Currently attending Whitney High School as a senior, I plan to continue my education at a higher institution. I am currently on track to attend Baylor University in Waco, Texas and plan on majoring in Biology. I hope to excel in this field of study and then apply to medical school soon after my undergraduate study. The Young Legislators Program has taught me to become more responsible and has helped me mature. This program has shown me that there are multiple integral facets to a community that help it prosper. Overall, this program has helped me realize that an individual can truly make an impact on the community.

Ola Jimoh
Hi! I am a current senior at Bellflower High School. Next fall, I plan to attend the University of California, Irvine as a Public Health Policy major with a minor in communications. My goal is to be able to reach out to certain individuals who struggle to understand the concept of health. Essentially, educate them about ways to enhance and control their bodies. My dream is to become a Public Health Representative for a hospital or local health organization. The Young Legislator Program has been a great opportunity that I feel every senior in high school should experience. Cristina Garcia and her team have gone far beyond expectations and created a program that has opened my mind to various aspects of our local communities. I have gained many life skills and knowledge that has taught me how important it is to be involved and give back to my community. I have also gained many connections with individuals who I feel will help me achieve my goals and aspirations. I am extremely grateful for being a part of the few selected students to be involved in this program and want to personally thank Cristina Garcia and her team for all they have done!

Deena Younan
I am a high school senior and I am from Cerritos, CA. I have always wanted to become an attorney, and I am excited to go to college this fall and start preparing for law school. I love being involved in clubs such as mock trial, model United Nations, and the Young Legislators Program. Through programs, such as YLP, I have been able to meet many community leaders and have been exposed to many opportunities to help me reach my goal of becoming a lawyer. This has been a very exciting and interesting experience, and I am looking forward to going to Sacramento to see how our government works.

Nilan Hirani
I am a senior at Richard Gahr High School. I plan to attend Cal Poly Pomona as an engineering major. I grew up with many engineers that influenced and guided me. The Young Legislators Program has taught me the importance of getting involved in government. It has opened my eyes to the large role that government plays in our daily lives from health care to businesses. The Young Legislators Program has taught me that we must get more involved in government and support our political leaders.

Laura Lopez
As a Young Legislator who is a fighter and wants to have a better future and not be another statistic, I have been working hard not only in my education but also in my involvement with the community. The Young Legislators Program has inspired and motivated me to be more involved in my community. I come from a family of five, my younger sister Denisse suffers from a kidney infections since she was born. Right now, she has only 33% of her left kidney and suffers from scoliosis. We have spent a lot of time in hospitals, and clinics since she was born. I would always goof around and pretend I was a doctor or a nurse, giving her pretend shots in her arms or feet. When I was in hospitals with her, I always imagined myself being a nurse or a doctor helping patients like my sister get better. This has inspired me to be a Nurse. I want to also be able to help my community since there are many individuals like my family who are facing economic hardships and sickness. My goal is to attend university, concentrating in Public Health and Biology and study nursing to become a registered nurse. Throughout the Young Legislators Program, I have grown to be more mature and attentive. I have met many great leaders and people like myself that have similar goals and aspirations. This program has inspired me to be someone in my community, become a leader.

Daisy Candelario
I am a senior at Bell Gardens High School. I like being involved in school activities, clubs and organizations on campus. I am part of Girls League, History Club, We Love Paws, Youth and Action, Junior Statesman of America, Leos club, Avid and Journalism. Being involved in school has made me become a positive, responsible, organized and hardworking person. Not only do I like being involved in school but in the community as well. I am also part of the church choir and an organization called East Yards Communities for Environmental Justice. As high school is ending, I have come to a decision that I will be attending Cal State Los Angeles to continue on pursuing my education. I may not have a major or career I plan to study on right now but I am certain I want to major in something that will lead me to a career that I will love and enjoy to do for the rest of my life. I then hope to travel around the world to learn and experience different cultures and peoples. The YLP has given me the opportunity to learn about the legislation process through the many different companies we were able to visit. The Young Legislators Program has taught me significant things that I would have never known before joining this amazing and incredible program. All the thanks to Cristina Garcia.

Jana Hagekhalil
Hi. I'm Jana Hagekhalil and part of Assemblymember Cristina Garcia's Young Legislators Program. I'm currently a senior at Whitney High School where I'm extremely involved with my school’s ASB leadership as well as our Model UN program. I plan to attend UC Riverside in the fall with a major of Political Science/International Relations. Through the Young Legislators Program, I've been able to gain so many amazing experiences. From visiting the Coca Cola factory in Downey to the Norwalk Sherif Station, the opportunities this program has offered me have been amazing and I am so excited to visit the capital in Sacramento.

Mariea Sekijima
As a prospective International Relations/Political Science major, I applied for the Young Legislators Program as a way to focus my attention away from issues that concerned the globe, to issues close to home. In half a year alone, I have become not only more knowledgeable of the various concerns of the community, but have grown closer to the community as well. With this understanding, I hope to continue to learn in college by applying what I learned at the local level to the national and international level, and return to give back to the Young Legislators Program and the 58th district.

Oscar Gonzalez
Since the beginning of this program, I have learned a plethora of ideas, values, and concepts. I learned the complexity of the inner workings of local government as well as the actual expense of getting a bill through committees and out on the floor. The Young Legislators Program has made me certain about my future aspirations. I seek to pursue a major in Political Science with an emphasis in Public Law. It has also given me a sneak peak of what I have yet to experience. Thank you Cristina Garcia for investing in me. One day I will return the investment.

Brenda Mendoza
I am currently a senior at Bellflower High School. Growing up, I never set goals in my life. This is until I reached high school. I started joining clubs and sports, which made me feel a part of my Bellflower High. In the 11th grade, I decided that I wanted to become a social worker in the future. Being accepted to the Young Legislative Program has been one of my greatest achievements. The YLP has allowed me to become closer to my community. I never thought that I would meet the assemblymember, Cristina Garcia, personally! She has shared with us what it’s like to be an assembly member. The YLP has also taught me that my idea can become a law and that everyone has the power to change things. Before I was in the program, I felt that the people that work with the government were the only ones that can make the community a better place but from this, I learned that one person could make a difference.

Moses Garcia
Throughout these past couple of months, the Young Legislators Program has undoubtedly been responsible for more than half of what I’ve learned about legislation. It has taught me that the world is much more complex than what it perceives to be. Although I am planning to attend CSULB in the fall with a major in Nursing, this program has showed me how government will have an impact on my future life, regardless of not choosing a career in the political field. I will also most definitely give back to my community when I receive my major and strive to have an impact in people’s lives just as Patrick Sunpanich and Cristina Garcia have in mine by creating this program.

Alexa Moreno
Throughout this program, I have learned about exactly how much work goes into ensuring that our cities are ran efficiently and ensuring that residents remain safe and healthy. The program has taught me that there is a great deal of effort that goes into obtaining and maintaining all the necessities that we need. We need to be thankful to those who do the work. After the Young Legislators Program, I am going to go to Fullerton College as Journalism major and I hope to carry over what I have learned in the program by continuing to be involved in my community. I would like to thank everyone who took the time to teach us about their business, Assembly member Cristina Garcia for providing this program and for being amazing to us, and Patrick for setting up all the experiences we got to have.

Michael Jetsupphasuk
Through our various tours in the community, I have learned much about the area surrounding us. We have received education on such things as healthcare and water sanitation that have made us citizens that are more informed. After YLP, I plan to attend UC Berkeley and receive a degree in Economics. I would like to thank Cristina Garcia for the many opportunities we have received.

Megan Nguyen
In this program I have learned that there are so many sectors of our society that are involved with politics such as in education, public safety, environment, or business, all which concern assemblymembers. After completing this program, I plan to attend UC San Diego, major in History, and then become a lawyer specializing in criminal law. I would like to thank Patrick Sunpanich for being the backbone of this program who also put a lot of hard work and effort in order to make this program successful.

Gisela Beltran
In my time being involved with the Young Legislatures program, I have come to realize that there is a giant role that the government plays in our everyday lives. This experience has taught me how important it is to vote and reach out to legislators because the decisions they make affect our everyday lives both positively and negatively. I would like to thank all those who dedicated their time and have made themselves available to make this program not only possible but also successful.

Cindy Li
Hi! I'm Cindy Li, from Whitney HS in Cerritos. I was first introduced to the world of government and politics when I was chosen to be the CA Girls State delegate for my school, which is a week-long government camp. When I heard about the Young Legislators Program, I was excited to continue learning about the policies and legislative work that affects all of our lives, and so I applied. YLP has not only been educational, it's been incredibly fun! When else would I get the opportunity to take selfies with the California Supreme Court Chief Justice? Even though I do not plan on being a politician or anything like that, YLP has helped me grow and build a dynamic knowledge base that will help me become a better citizen and aid me in whatever field I choose to go into. Next fall, I will be attending Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, where I will study Economics. Although I am not sure what career I want yet, I hope to find something I enjoy in the world of business.

Vince Madrigal
I'm a senior at Bellflower High School. The highlights of my senior year include being the varsity volleyball team captain for two years in a row, winning the league championship for volleyball two years in a row, serving as an officer for Key Club, and serving and learning about my community in the Young Legislator's Program. Through Key Club, I have learned the importance of serving and assisting other in my community as a means to build character and community. I have further expanded my education about community service through learning about the legislation process in the Young Legislators Program. I am excited to have my foot in the door for a political career in order to serve others around me and join a huge cycle of learning and giving.

Cristal Chaidez
Being part of the YLP has opened my eyes, especially about my future. Before being in this program, I wasn't too sure about what I wanted to become. I learned the importance of being professional because it can definitely change people’s perspectives. After completing this program, I am on majoring in Business when I attend college. I learned the importance of continuing to learn but also to speak up for oneself. I am fortunate to say that Cristina Garcia is a role model that showed me to be yourself, to be proud where you come from and that doing the right thing is worth the effort. Lastly, I want to say thank you to Patrick for all the sacrifices you did to make this program so successful.

Ulises Penaloza
Through the YLP, I have learned that drafting legislation is not as easy as it seems. You need to take in fact lobbyists, the public, private companies, and the constitutionality of the bill. However, with enough effort a good bill can be created. I plan to become a Civil Engineer with a minor in Business to solve the state’s drought problem and the transportation infrastructure. I would like to thank Patrick Sunpanich for the program, as I would like to thank Assembly Member Cristina Garcia, and the state’s taxpayers. Without them, the program would have not been possible. Also, I would like to thank my colleagues at the YLP because they brought different views on different topics and that made me aware of the multitude of topics that bother our state.

Verenice Ulloa
I am a senior from Downey High. During these last few months of being in the YLP, I
have experienced many knew things and have also learned about them. I learned about the many tests and restrictions water and bottled water must pass. The YLP has been an amazing experience for me and the best part is that it is free! It has also helped me gain more knowledge as I move forward in my future toward becoming an attorney.