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Former student trustee a candidate for Foothill-De Anza Board of Trustees3 min read

October 5, 2016

Patrick Ahrens, a De Anza alum and former student trustee, is running for a seat on the Foothill-De Anza Community College District Board of Trustees to promote student interests.

Eight years after serving as a student representative on the Foothill-De Anza Community College District Board of Trustees, De Anza alum Patrick Ahrens, 27, is vying for a full-fledged trustee position.
He is running for one of three open seats on the board, which oversees De Anza and Foothill colleges, in the Nov. 8 election. Five other candidates will also be on the ballot, according to the Mountain View Voice.
The district covers all or part of Cupertino, Sunnyvale, Los Altos, Palo Alto, Mountain View and Santa Clara. Students who live in these areas will be eligible to vote in the upcoming election.
Each trustee has a four-year term and elections are held every two years. Only one incumbent has indicated that she will be running: Laura Casas-Frier, a member of the board for over a decade. Two other trustees, Betsy Bechtel and Joan Barram, are not seeking re-election.
Besides Ahrens and Casa-Frier, candidates include Cupertino City Council member Gilbert Wong, former Cupertino councilman Orrin Mahoney, Los Altos resident Peter Landsberger and Foothill College employee Eric Rosenthal.
Ahrens announced his bid for the board in April. Ahrens works for Evan Low, D-Campbell, as his educational policy advisor, and previously worked for Janice Jahn, D-San Pedro, in Washington.
“It would be in the best interest of students to vote,” Ahrens said in an interview. “It’s important to know who we elect. It’s important to have locals representing the community.”
Ahrens explained the role of the board, which is a part of the educational system of which few students are knowledgeable.
“The board oversees the district’s budget. Board members are policymakers for the college; all budgets, all rules, are passed by the school and approved by the Board of Trustees,” he said.
Ahrens said he hopes to bring his college experience to the table if he wins a seat on the board, because he will be the youngest board member ever elected; he served as a non-voting student trustee representing De Anza in 2008-09.
“Working for assembly members has primed me to work for advocating students and encouraging transparency in government,” he said. “I was a student until recently. I know what it’s like to be a student, I know what it’s like to worry about the things that you worry about, I know what it’s like to take out loans and have mounds of debt. A lot of the board members are older, and they just don’t have college as a recent experience, so they might not be able to relate to modern students like I can.”
Ahrens pointed out measures in the past that were pushed by students and cleared by the board. “We didn’t used to have textbook rentals. Students pushed for that because buying the books was too expensive. Eco-Passes were also the result of student pressure on the college as a way for students to get to school by way of affordable public transportation.”

Ahrens said he hopes to bring attention to the fact that students have a hard time getting an education and a career because of untenable expenses.
“The baby boomers are retiring. Housing is much more expensive today than it was forty years ago. Jobs don’t pay any more than they used to; you can’t work a summer job anymore and have that money cover your college tuition for the year,” he said.
“Nowadays, young people go to school with the promise that they will have a good-paying career after they get an education, and that simply isn’t realistic anymore. That’s the American dream for today’s young people.”
“I may not have the best ideas coming in,” Ahrens said. “But I want an open door policy to encourage student involvement. If they think something is wrong, that something needs to change, then I want them to know that they can come to me and voice their thoughts on the issue.”

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