Daniel Espiritu, a second year political science major at Chapman University, is a recognizable leader among his peers for his dedication to civic engagement. Daniel serves in leadership roles for the Student Alliance for Prison Reform, facilitating critical conversations about the U.S. criminal justice system; Alternatives in Democracy, exploring the ways in which alternative economic and social systems could realistically work in the United States; and the Enclave Coalition, a student group currently active at the city and county levels in advocating for homeless members of our community. Daniel also serves as an AVID tutor at local elementary, middle, and high schools. In his approach to civic engagement, Daniel actively responds to the need for direct service within local communities while also organizing with his peers to investigate the root causes of those needs.
When asked to describe what civic engagement means to me, the words of Malcolm X come to mind. "You don't stick a knife in a man's back nine inches and then pull it out six inches and say you're making progress ... No matter how much respect, no matter how much recognition, whites show towards me, as far as I am concerned, as long as it is not shown to every one of our people in this country, it doesn't exist for me." I have come a long way in my personal life as a low-income student of color, but this isn't any indication that the problems of our world are being resolved. I'm the interim president of a club on campus that believes we cannot endorse status quo systems to dismantle the atrocities that the status quo necessitates. We hold weekly meetings to discuss the viability of alternate social and economic systems. I'm also involved with community efforts to hold local government accountable for Orange County's astonishing homelessness rates. This connects with my involvement in the Student Alliance for Prison Reform, where we acknowledge the United States' prison system's role in the creation of social problems.