Today’s student voice, tomorrow’s role models

ASI executive board makes history with 4/5 members being Hispanic women


Stacy Hanson

(L-R) Nataly Andrade-Dominguez, Laura De la Garza Garcia, Lexa Estrella and Salma Pacheco are four out of five ASI board members that are of hispanic descent. The women hope to be role models to other young women through their leadership role at Sac State. (Graphic created on Canva by Alexis Hunt and Mercy Sosa)

Stacy Hanson

Sacramento State’s Associated Students Incorporated’s (ASI) executive board makes history this year with four out of five members being women and of Hispanic descent.

The four Hispanic women on the board—Salma Pacheco, Laura De la Garza Garcia, Nataly Andrade-Domignuez and Lexa Estrella— all bring unique perspectives to the student body. However, they all have one thing in common: they believe in the power of student voice.

According to Salma Pacheco, ASI president, finding the power of voice isn’t always easy, especially when representation isn’t always present.

ASI President Salma Pacheco stands outside Santa Clara Hall Sept. 20, 2022. Pacheco said that as president, she hopes to foster a “community of care” at Sacramento State. (Stacy Hanson)

“The Hispanic community is left out in government, in politics, and things like that, so seeing our executive team be super strong Latinas is amazing,” Pacheco said.

The student body votes on these ASI positions annually in the spring semester. ASI has no record of the ethnic makeup of past executive boards. However, according to Lexa Estrella, a third-year double major in political science and international relations, this is the first time the ASI executive board is led mainly by Hispanic women. 

“We get lost in the cracks, so we never get helped or we don’t know who to ask for help,” Estrella said. “It’s showing that society is changing systematically, and I think that’s what has also pushed us to do more this year. We have a lot to give, and we want to give a lot.”

One of the main goals of ASI this year is to create a “community of care,” Pacheco said.“We’re all communicating in order to provide the best experience for students and to ensure that no one gets left behind or falls through the cracks.”

Pacheco said she accredits this ideal to her upbringing. She grew up in Pacoima, a low-income community in Southern California where the ideals of a close-knit community, family and helping each other out are essential.

“Any time that something happens—for example, if a fire breaks out in my community — that community will come together to help the families that are in need,” she said.

Lexa Estrella, the vice president of university affairs, stands by the Guy West Bridge Sept. 19, 2022. Estrella said her background as an undocumented student empowers her and shows others like her that it’s possible to have a position of leadership. (Stacy Hanson)

Contrary to Pacheco’s upbringing, Estrella said she had no support from her family. Last semester, between balancing two jobs and struggling to pay for housing and food; her grades dropped, which according to her almost led her to withdraw from the university.

“If I hadn’t gotten involved at Sac State and if I hadn’t known the right people, that wouldn’t have been solved,” she said. “It wasn’t until the first or second week of this semester that I got it resolved, and I’ve been working on it since May.”

Estrella says her biggest motivation in her endeavor as a student and as the ASI vice president of university affairs comes from her background of being an undocumented student.

“We [undocumented students] usually tend to hide away,” Estrella said. “We don’t like to say we’re undocumented because we feel like people are going to look at us differently, or we think that some day ICE will come and take us. That’s the fear that we live every single day. I think for myself, it makes me feel empowered, and it helps me show people like myself that it’s possible.”

Laura De la Garza Garcia, a double major in journalism and nutrition and food, and the executive vice president, reinforced the importance of representation. She said she has dealt with racism from a young age.

ASI Executive Vice President, Laura De la Garza Garcia, stands outside the Riverfront Center Sept. 21, 2022. De la Garza Garcia said that she wanted to be the role model for others that she didn’t have growing up. (Stacy Hanson)

After being born and raised in Mexico until the age of seven, De la Garza Garcia moved to a small town in Michigan that was not very diverse.  De la Garza Garcia recollects being the only one in her elementary and middle school classes who spoke Spanish.

“I was singled out very rudely in front of classes in middle school and in elementary school,” said  De la Garza Garcia. “I was literally pointed at in the back of a classroom while someone told me that the KKK was going to take me. It was very brutal bullying. I didn’t understand the severity of it and how much racism I was enduring, but as a young person you don’t realize that it’s wrong.”

De la Garza Garcia started at Sac State in 2019 and said since then, she has been insistent on getting involved to be the representation that the students deserve. 

Nataly Andrade-Dominguez, the vice president of academic affairs, stands in the Library Quad Sept. 19, 2022. Andrade-Dominguez said she stays motivated because she wants to break down stereotypes surrounding Hispanic culture. (Stacy Hanson)


Nataly Andrade-Dominguez, the vice president of academic affairs, said she is determined to break stereotypes that have been placed on her since a young age.

“People say that Hispanics don’t have the power or the voice to represent,” she said. “We’re not always seen as the brightest. So to knock that stereotype off the Hispanic culture is an amazing thing to do.”

Andrade-Dominguez, said that being part of the ASI executive board is both an amazing opportunity and a privilege.

“With all of us being from a diverse background it shows that we can do it despite what we go through and despite all the stereotypes that are being placed on us,” she said. “We can do it and we are doing it. Just because we’re women of color doesn’t prove that we can’t. That doesn’t define who we are.”

The work of the executive board has also touched the Hispanic community at Sac State. Leonela De La Cruz, a second-year grad student studying Spanish, said she feels inspired by the representation in ASI.

Leonela De La Cruz, a second-year grad student studying Spanish, stands by the Hornet Bookstore Sept. 22, 2022. De La Cruz said she is inspired by the representation shown on the ASI executive board. (Stacy Hanson)

“As women and as Hispanics, we can set examples for younger generations,” De La Cruz said. “We look up to these leaders in our community. It’s inspiring.”

De la Garza Garcia said that growing up, she never had any role models to look up to.

“I think in growing up without a role model, or without someone in leadership who looked like me, I felt like I needed to be that,” De la Garza Garcia said. “That’s how I found my voice.”

Editor’s note: Laura De la Garza Garcia, while a member of the ASI executive board, is also the Spanish editor for The State Hornet.