Every political season, America is inundated with phrases or labels each candidate either likes to frame their opponent with, to use against them, or self ascribe one that may boost their own image in hopes of gaining public support. It may not be a stretch to say America at the moment may be tired of hearing nicknames like “maverick” or slogans such as “hope” and “change.”
If such a term were to be applied to Steven Ferguson, the word “unopposed” might be the best choice.
It’s not the sexiest choice of words, but it does accurately describe how the 19-year-old sophomore became the current president of ASGCC (Associated Students of Glendale Community College).
Ferguson also serves as a student trustee, representing GCC students on a wide range of issues affecting the campus.
But since he ran unopposed last spring to win the election, what do we really know about Ferguson, both personally and as president/trustee?
There’s a lot to him, as it turns out. Having already lived a roller coaster of a life, he may already be years ahead of his peers in life experience, so coming up with the right slogan or description of him might go a long way in solidifying his image.
Steven Ferguson has the experience. He’s been serving you since 2001.
Well, if you have lived in Burbank since then anyway. Ferguson grew up in Burbank, graduating Burbank High School as a member of many school activities, such as yearbook, student newspaper, student body and the speech and debate team.
But he started making his mark in the city at 11-years-old, where he helped start a program called Burbank Youth for Youth, which surveyed teens on pressing issues, and later created a group called Teens in Action.
In 2004 Ferguson was appointed by the Burbank city council to help create a program recognizing outstanding teens in the community.
Last year he was appointed to the park and recreation community services board in Burbank. “I was the first person to ever be appointed to that board of commission,” he said.
Steven Ferguson is willing to take on responsibility.lots of it.
As a freshman last year, Ferguson served as a senator of campus relations. Last spring he was elected senator of administration. His days are long, meeting with the school board for several hours some days.
“I have an executive meeting every Monday, where I meet with the dean of student affairs (Paul Schlossman) as with our other two advisors,” Ferguson said. “Just to see where things are in the legislature.”
Ferguson also routinely meets with super intendent president Dr. Audre Levy to ensure students have input on current issues.
Ferguson has a vote, only, its power is limited. “I can move and second. I can’t vote – or, my vote is an advisory vote.”
That doesn’t seem to bother him. “I have a unique responsibility where I represent 19,000 students,” he said. “I take it very seriously.”
Steven Ferguson doesn’t mind ruffling feathers if it means getting the job done.
“I’ve taken the hits,” he said. “When I voted no on the budget I took a hit.”
The budget is an issue that will always take center stage in a national election, but at GCC it’s been a hot button issue as well.
Ferguson opposed the recent budget proposal. “I cast three no votes on the budget. Many people disagreed with me, including some of our faculty, and that’s fine. But I didn’t feel.that this budget reflected the college’s priorities.”
Priorities that included a pay raise for the faculty and higher ups, which meant cuts for the ASGCC budget, but Ferguson let his opinions on the matter be known.
The school board wanted to cut $60,000 from the ASGCC budget, which would have affected programs such as the athletic department and El Vaquero, which ASGCC funds, but Ferguson helped talk the board down to only a $30,000 cut.
Ferguson explained his feelings on playing the man in between the students and the board of trustees.
“It’s hard because as a dual role it’s my job to be out there and really advocating on behalf of the students on a policy level with the trustees but then back here making sure this whole thing is still working.”
For what it’s worth, Ferguson’s peers think highly of him, including sophomore Joey Roszhart, a senator of campus relations.
“He’s really here to help the students,” said Roszhart, noting that Ferguson doesn’t get a big head around the office.
“He’s a down to earth person.”
There’s no “I” in team with Ferguson.
Ferguson isn’t interested in taking sole credit in affecting campus decisions. “Do I personally have influence? I would say we as a legislature have influence,” he said. “I go in there and act as their bulldog, and I absolutely speak with 19,000 student voices behind me.”
Ferguson does have kind words for the board, including Dr. Levy. “The board members.they listen to the students. They really do,” adding, “we have a very friendly super intendant president, Dr. Levy.”
Steven Ferguson knows what it’s like to deal with personal tragedy.
This is where things get somber, as Ferguson described his family-life growing up.
His parents divorced when he was in the third grade, and his father, as Ferguson put it, “just kind of took off. It was a messy divorce.”
His father battled substance abuse, and that will always take a toll on a family. “I was raised by a single mom who dealt with the best and worst of the world,” Ferguson said.
His relationship with his father now is nonexistent. “I don’t really speak to him,” he said. After the divorce, he and his mother, Laurie, went from living in a small apartment to living with his grandparents, until Laurie eventually remarried.
But in late 2006, Laurie was diagnosed with skin cancer, and lost her battle with it last December. Ferguson said he does not have much of a support system now. Some relatives are out of state, and he and his stepfather did not keep their relationship after his mother passed. “We’re done,” he said shortly.
Ferguson’s tone is matter-of-fact, showing little emotion either way. “I’ve learned more and more to live life the best I can. I’m out on my own. I’m independent,” he said. Ferguson lives with roommates in a Burbank apartment.
The sudden loss of his mother has made Ferguson more reflective. “I’m grateful for the time I have,” he said, which may sound odd coming from a 19-year-old, but he knows that things can change quickly. “I’m trying to do everything I can with the time I have.”
Sophmore senator of campus relations Milton Alvarez admires Ferguson’s perserverence. “His journey through his life has been really hard on him. I think he’s a great person…he treats you as a friend,” said Alvarez.
Steven Ferguson: making the most out of his responsibilities.
Of his job as a president, Ferguson said, “you can make it something incredible. Or you can do just what’s required of you.that’s not what I’m about. I’m about reaching out to my vice presidents, seeing if they need help.helping them become better leaders, just as they’re making me a better leader.”
Ferguson knows that his fellow officers have been battling an image problem for a while, being viewed as aloof by other students, and he’s trying to change the perception of ASGCC has a giant clique. “For the last few semesters has it been fair to see that from the outsider’s point of view? I think so, but we’re trying to reach out like never before,” he said.
Reaching out means members of the legislature coming into classrooms and asking students what they want for their school, something ASGCC has planned for this semester.
What about the issue of no parking, something Glendale is notorious for having?
“There are absolutely plenty of parking spaces on campus. But, you can’t get here five minutes before class, and you have to be willing to go across the street and walk,” he said.
Steven Ferguson: advocate for walking for a healthier America?
That one may be spin that Republican and Democratic handlers would admire, but Ferguson apparently isn’t shy about giving students the straight talk.
Steven Ferguson has tasted life in the big leagues.
Ferguson was on hand this summer for the Democratic National Convention in Denver serving as a delegate, including witnessing Barrack Obama’s acceptance speech.
He called it a “humbling experience” and described the joy he felt of being around top members of the Democratic Party.
“I sat there and I said, ‘if I can only do that, and be able to serve people just like they do.'”
Ferguson expresses a desire to serve in public office on a national level someday, but acknowledged, “those are blessings for a very few individuals in this country.”
But that’s later in his life. Much later. For now, Ferguson is focused on serving on the Burbank city council, and has his sights set on USC or Occidental College next year when he transfers.
Some public figures seem to care too much about their image, some not enough. How does Ferguson want to be viewed?
“I want to be viewed as accessible. I really do have an open door policy, and I try my best to reach out.I’ve been through a lot, and to me that’s blessing, everyday, that I can sit there and listen to people with a trained ear. I think taking all those experiences and having people understand that I’m available.I think that’s the person that I want to be to people.”
Levy herself has nothing but glowing praise for Ferguson. “He’s phenomal,” she said, and called him “articulate in his advocacy of [students].”
Levy said Ferguson has gained the respect of the school board, citing an instance where one member chided Ferguson for speaking out on an issue and the board came to Ferguson’s defense in the way he was spoken to. Levy describes Ferguson as “outspoken and dynamic.”
Most college sophomores are still unsure of their goals and vision for their future, but despite the obstacles he’s overcome, Ferguson seems to be on the right path and is happy for the opportunity afforded to him.
“[Running for Burbank city council], plus applying to schools, plus running in ASGCC, plus serving on the board of trustees is a lot of fun,” he said.
Steven Ferguson: living his American dream and having a blast.
That one sounds about right.