May 24, 2019 – Three days after making his last speech as the student government president at CSU Channel Islands (CSUCI), Class of 2019 graduate Atticus Reyes accepted a fellowship that takes him to the halls of the California State Capitol.

Reyes, 22, of Ojai, was one of 18 college graduates chosen for a paid, full-time legislative staff position in the California State Capitol for 11 months. Beginning in October, Reyes will be a Senate Fellow in the California Senate Fellows (CSF) program.

Established in 1973, the CSF program is one of the oldest and most distinguished service learning programs in the country. There are four programs in which 18 fellows are placed in the Senate, Assembly, Executive or Judicial branches of government for a total of 64 fellows. Those 64, including Reyes, were chosen from 1,100 to 1,400 applicants who can apply from anywhere in the world, although most have ties to California.

“I’ll be learning about the legislative process,” Reyes said. “It’s one thing to be a fierce advocate and use your voice and create grassroots movements, but without the policy knowhow, you are not going to go very far.”

Reyes graduated on May 18 among 2,700 other candidates eligible to receive diplomas at the 17th Annual Commencement ceremony at CSUCI.  The two scheduled ceremonies drew about 20,000 family, friends and supporters who gathered at CSUCI’s Central Mall area.

President Erika D. Beck this year recognized all of those who are the first in their family to graduate from college by having the first-in-their-generation graduates carry red signs. “Many of you are the first in your family to graduate from a university…If you are the first in your family to earn a college degree, I would like you to stand up and wave that red flag high in the air,” she said, as more than half of the participants rose and waved red signs.

Reyes was not the first to attend college in his family as his mother finally earned her degree as an adult, but he did not grow up in privileged circumstances. “I’d like to thank my mother, who raised six children on her own as a single mom,” he said, wiping tears from his cheeks as he spoke at the podium. “I’m just so proud to be your son.”

Reyes, whose parents divorced when he was eight months old, grew up in a lower middle class neighborhood in North Hollywood. His dad, whom he also thanked, arrived in the U.S. from Mexico at the age of 17 with very little in his pocket.

Reyes also thanked his five “strong, beautiful” older sisters and his stepfather, who joined the family when Reyes was older, and shared his love of history with Reyes.

Reyes went on to major in history, which he believes offers perspective for those who plan to go into public service, as he does, either as an elected official or a community organizer.

During his speech, Reyes talked about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s frequent reference to the arc of the moral universe, the arc of history, and how it bends toward justice.

“It may not bend as easily or as quickly as we like, but we can’t shy away from that, we can’t expect people to bend it for us,” he said. “In this moment, we are being called upon like our foremothers and our forefathers to continue bending that arc of history for a just world, toward a peaceful world and toward an equitable world.”

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