A little less than a month after I returned home, my dad started showing symptoms. Then my mom. Then me. My family was left in the most vulnerable position we had ever been. After my father had been taken to the ER, I was left to care for my mother. But only a few days later, I had to admit her to Yale-New Haven Hospital as well. When I arrived home, there was a new stillness. Although I was alone, I was lucky enough to feel the love from family and the Yale community. My closest friends, Conrad Cuevas and Baji Tumendemberel, surprised me with a video of my friends throughout campus offering their support and expressing their love. Although these were — and continue to be — challenging times, it also affirmed that my experience at Yale is rooted in making meaningful connections.
After a month of hospitalization, I was extremely fortunate to have both of my parents return home fully recovered. I know the same cannot be said for so many. I was privileged enough to have family to rely on for support, but I know that there were so many in New Haven that were not as fortunate. That’s why, the day my quarantine was over, I began working. I volunteered for as many charities as time and opportunity permitted. I packaged and distributed food for IRIS to refugees and immigrants all throughout New Haven and West Haven. I worked with the soup kitchen DESK right in the middle of downtown New Haven the next day. As often as I could, I worked at the Blake Field drop in center where we provided clothes, food, water, showers, medical and homelessness consultation for anyone who needed it. The pandemic had disproportionately devastated my communities and other marginalized populations, and I felt a responsibility to contribute in any way that I could.
Around the same time, protests erupted around the country following the murder of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and an untold number of Black lives. Inspired by work done for a Civilian Review Board in New Haven led by Emma Jones after her son, Malik Jones, was killed by East Haven police, I aimed to advocate for the same goal in West Haven. At a protest demanding accountability for the murder of Mubarak Soulemane, a West Haven resident my age, I spoke with young activists who were eager to seek change as well. We reached out to community leaders, city officials and student activists who wanted to see something done. After a summer of helping organize protests and garnering support, the City of West Haven and the West Haven Police Department agreed to initiate conversations geared towards implementing a Civilian Review Board.
I am not the conventional candidate to be running for this position, but the time calls for new voices outside of the YCC to implement comprehensive reform. When I came to Yale, I did not intend to be involved with student government; however, I have since realized that the YCC can be a powerful platform to continue the good work of uplifting the voices of my respective communities, both on campus and outside of Yale’s borders. My first two years at Yale were spent consulting for smaller nonprofits in New Haven such as Havenly, as well as larger nonprofits tackling food insecurity in NYC such as Rethink Food. This may not count as conventional student government experience, but I humbly believe that it speaks to my sincere commitment to those who are underserved and are underrepresented around me, a mindset that is needed in the YCC.
This sincerity is something Abey and I share, and we demonstrate it in every point of our platform. We focus on intersectional and creative solutions that tackle some of our biggest problems on campus. As a first-generation, low-income student, I understand how essential it is to have health care during difficult times. Our COVID-19 pillar very clearly details our short term goals to expand Yale Basic health coverage to all students regardless of enrollment status, to expand the deadline to register for healthcare indefinitely past Sept. 15 and receive a prorated charge, and to expand the current travel rider program for students studying domestically to protect all students living out of state. I’ve worked directly with community organizers on criminal justice reform and it is essential that we listen to Black voices and follow their lead on policies. We will implement a task force led by Black voices and activist groups on campus such as Black Students for Disarmament at Yale to tackle these issues directly. I’ve lived ten minutes from campus and am ready to work with members of the community and city officials to push for policies that strengthen our relationship with the city. Abey and I have thought carefully about each of our policies because we have a vested interest in their outcome. We’ve done our research, spoken with student leaders and spoken with faculty members because we care about offering comprehensive platforms and not platitudes.
MATT MURILLO is a junior in Grace Hopper College. He is running for Vice President of the Yale College Council. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org .