Student Experience at College of San Mateo
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Student Experience
Gabriel Arteaga
Gabriel Arteaga UC Riverside, B.A.

What does a college graduate do with a degree in political science?  For Gabriel Arteaga the answer is to enter the political arena by working for his local congresswoman.

 “As a child of El Salvadorian immigrants, I have been given the opportunity to see life through a different lens,” says Gabriel. To witness his parent’s struggle to overcome tremendous hardship while providing for a better life for his family in the United States was motivating for Gabriel. He took the experience and turned it into a passion to help others and become an advocate for families like his own. “Working in politics is a perfect avenue for me to accomplish my goal of helping others.”

Even as a student at Burlingame High School, Gabriel had a social conscience. He was actively involved in student activities that provided leadership opportunities for students. He became president of La Cultura Latina, a student organization designed to create awareness of Latino/a culture, raise funds for scholarships for college-bound students, and provide a college-prep support group for students and their parents.  “I was very involved in high school. Although I wasn’t the world’s greatest student, I was very determined and persistent. I was a B average student, but I never measured my success by how many A’s and B’s I earned, but rather the choices that I made.”

According to Gabriel, one of his most important choices was to attend CSM.  However, timing was not good; his family’s business demanded more of his time and Gabriel began to struggle academically. He found college work more challenging and college life very different from high school. Overall, it was a difficult transition. While Gabriel never considered quitting school, he needed support and guidance to navigate the college experience.

CSM’s Extended Opportunity Programs and Services (EOPS) became something of a lifeline for Gabriel. He recalls, “EOPS was key for my success at CSM. It not only assisted me financially in purchasing textbooks and providing early registration and mentorship, but it gave me a home away from home. My EOPS Counselor Ruth Turner helped me to overcome obstacles and introduced me to several programs and services at CSM that assisted me with the transition and, as a result, my grades began to improve,” says Gabriel. The faculty and staff at EOPS treated me like family. They were truly invested in my future success.”

With a supportive network of faculty, staff and resources, Gabriel began to thrive at CSM both academically and personally.  “I found that I became focused, determined and motivated. I felt that my professors wanted me to be more than just a better student; their goal was to make me a better critical thinker and a more conscious and active member in our community.” 

Building on his student leadership experience from high school, Gabriel became involved in student government at CSM, serving as a student senator, president and co-founder of the Latinos Unidos and chair of the Inter Club Council. “I learned what it took to run a successful campaign, worked with others toward a similar goal and built community as a way to improve the campus. CSM was instrumental in preparing me for a life of service because service is one of the core principles of the college. It prepared me for where I am today – working in politics.” For his service to CSM, Gabriel was honored with the college’s prestigious Allan R. Brown Outstanding Student Service Award.

CSM’s Student Activities Assistant Fauzi Hamadeh recalls Gabriel’s commitment and contribution to the college: “During his time at CSM, Gabriel took the initiative to become an advocate for his community and for all students. He built bridges with the campus community to develop a thriving club that still continues. He truly embodies all the philosophies that we try to instill in our students: community, inclusiveness, engagement, and service. Gabriel’s continued public service is testimony to his leadership, his commitment, and his personal convictions.”

Gabriel explains the significance of CSM, “I live my life by metaphors related to running and it was CSM that served as the starting block to propel me to greater things in both my academic life and professional career.” Upon completing his lower division requirements at CSM, Gabriel transferred to the UC Riverside where he earned his bachelor’s degree in political science.  

Today, Gabriel proudly serves as an aide to Congresswoman Anna Eshoo in her Palo Alto office (California’s 14th Congressional District).  He has stayed on course and remained true to his passion for helping others. “Working for one of the most brilliant and hardest working members of Congress is as gratifying as it sounds; the Congresswoman and all my colleagues are an inspiration to me and I continue to be excited and thrilled to learn something new every day. It’s a dream come true for me.” 

“I have always known that this is the field I was meant to be in because it allows me to give back directly to the community I serve. CSM definitely helped me reach that goal.”