The first thing you notice about Jarrod Vargas, the new president of the Associated Students of Delta College, is his good-natured smile. He’ll shake your hand and say hello, and it’s as if you’re talking with someone you’ve known for years.
Vargas, 29, is a returning college student. Higher education didn’t work out for him when he was younger. But Vargas found a supportive community when he enrolled at Delta College, and now he’s got big plans. We might even see him again one day…
Question: What’s your background?
Answer: “I was born in Walnut Creek and ended up moving here to the Valley where I grew up. I pursued higher education right out of high school, but I went ahead and put that off because at the time I wasn’t really quite ready. Since then I spent a lot of time working. That’s pretty much how I found myself back here. I decided to come back and pursue my passion.”
Q: You tried attending another college right out of high school, but it didn’t work out. Why?
A: “Back in those days I didn’t feel much support. But it’s really interesting. Here (at Delta), as a new student, especially when you’re an older student returning, when you’re feeling kind of unsure, they do things to help. They called to remind me, ‘Hey, you have a counseling appointment coming up.’ It doesn’t seem obvious, but just those little things I think really can make a big difference. It really helped me feel I could stick through this, you know?”
Q: Why did you run for student-body president?
A: “I always felt Delta gave a lot to me and I wanted to return something back. Basically I just happened to become more involved. I got a few mentors who encouraged me to run for the position, and here I am.”
Q: What do you want to accomplish as president?
A: “There are a lot of studies that show that when you become more involved in school you become more successful. So I want to help to promote more of a community here on campus. I want to help people feel more empowered to be involved. I’d like to start a program to try to increase school spirit here, for one thing. I’m also trying to expand our Mustang discount program.
“It’s important to me that we address the stigma that a community college isn’t something to be proud about or that you’re not going to get as good an experience here. If we as students take ownership of our school and we find more ways to be involved, the pride that we feel, people are going to notice that. And then other people are going to want to come here and change their lives. There’s professors here who attended Dartmouth, who attended Cambridge University. You can get a world class education. I think trying to change the narrative is something that’s very important to me.”
Q: Where does Delta College fit into Stockton’s story?
A: “For me, I feel Delta is a catalyst. People can come here and they can work on what they’re passionate about and immediately go out into the community and try to improve it in a way that’s relevant to them, whether they’re here to be a chef, whether they’re here to be an auto mechanic… Not everyone wants to transfer to a four-year university.”
Q: What’s your next step?
A: “I came here to get my AA-T (Associate in Arts for Transfer) in psychology. I plan on transferring to San Jose State or San Francisco State. Honestly, I’m very passionate about education. If you’re serious about it, if you want to put in the effort, you can use it to change your life. For me, I didn’t always feel that was possible.
“What I want to do is maybe one day become a career counselor or an academic advisor, and I would love to come back here and work at Delta, to be honest, and help people search out their own path.”