From college campus to the capital
ASST. FEATURES EDITOR
Fourth-year Political Science major Yvan Monreal did not care much about school before arriving at Whittier College. Despite, or perhaps because of, the emphasis so intensely placed on education by his mother, his interests in high school were consistent with those of most self-indulgent jocks his age. “My GPA reflected that,” said Monreal. It was not until he came into contact with Whittier’s nurturing environment of small class sizes and support networks of accessible, dedicated professors that Monreal began to prosper as a student and an aspiring leader.
Since becoming a Poet, some of Monreal’s most fulfilling academic accomplishments have been four consecutive appearances on the Dean’s List, a 70-page report on democratic decay in Venezuela (which he contributed to as a research assistant for Department Chair and Professor of Political Science Deborah Norden), and his senior thesis “Counterfeit Immigration: Motives Behind State and Federal Immigration Policies and their Effects.” Additionally, during his undergraduate career, Monreal has undertaken several leadership positions and endeavors, including positions as a writing tutor for the Center for Academic and Advising Success (CAAS), Student-Alumni Coordinator for the Office of Alumni Programs and Giving, a member of the Political Science Student Council, the President (2017 – 18) and Vice President (2018 – present) of Pi Sigma Alpha, the President and co-founder of Latino Leaders of Tomorrow (LLOT), and Vice President of Associated Students of Whittier College (ASWC) Senate.
Monreal’s political aspirations are hardly limited to our humble campus community — they extend all the way to the Oval Office. It comes with little surprise that in 2017, with half of his undergraduate career behind him, Monreal’s professional ambition landed him in the nation’s capital. There, he was able to cultivate his passion for politics and public policy as a legislative aid for California’s then freshman Senator, Kamala Harris. Monreal had ventured into uncharted territory, but found solace in the fact that he was not doing so alone. “I wanted to work in D.C.,” said Monreal, “but it’s kind of intimidating going there, especially since I had never been to the East Coast before. I liked the idea of being there with someone else [Sen. Harris] who was new there too, and whose values largely align with my own.”
Monreal’s summer in Washingon D.C. resulted in a number of encounters with some of the country’s most prominent political heavyweights — from taking the subway with the late Sen. John McCain to getting complimented on his cologne by President pro tempore Orrin Hatch in an elevator and receiving an occasional “good morning” grunt from Sen. Bernie Sanders as he briskly walked by on his way to personally pick up his laundry. “He always looked pissed,” said Monreal, “. . . obviously pissed at the state of the country.”
He connected and collaborated with the children of CEOs and members of Congress, former Obama Administration personnel, and individuals featured on Forbes 30 Under 30. “The power,” said Monreal, “you just feel it.” He had gained limited access to a social milieux that remains virtually impenetrable to everyone born outside its bourgeois enclave. As a Latino native of Southern California, the gravity of this opportunity was not lost on him. “We can’t penetrate their circle,” said Monreal, “can’t even scratch the surface.”
As Sen. Harris gears up for a 2020 presidential run, Monreal is skeptical of her chances as a candidate in a country whose forces of reaction have been emboldened. Still, he is optimistic about what her potential presidency could mean, and he believes it’s important for more women of color to hold positions of power so they can continue “breaking institutional barriers.”
These values stem in large part from his parents, who Monreal deeply admires and draws inspiration from. His father, though born in the U.S., was raised in Santiago, Chile, and currently works as a salesman. He taught his son to “always give 100 percent and be honest.” He instilled in Monreal a commanding confidence, charisma, and appetite for constant growth — traits that have made his success possible. These qualities are sure to come in handy during Monreal’s eventual pursuit of public office.
His mother was born in Mexico City and raised in Guadalajara, Mexico, and she currently works as a professor of Anthropology and Cultural Studies at Fullerton Community College. Monreal is grateful to have been exposed to and learned from her fierce work ethic, kindness, and humility. He recalls practically growing up in museums, receiving summer homework packets from his mother, and being forced to watch dense educational documentaries as punishment. “But the chancla was real for me too,” Monreal said. He was also fortunate enough to accompany his mother on class and research trips to places like Chiapas, Chichen Itza, and Ireland, which provided some sobering perspective and helped him appreciate his life much more.
The experiences and lessons afforded to Monreal by his parents and Whittier College strengthen his purpose moving forward. “I want to be in a position where I can help everyone who’s helped me,” said Monreal, “where the people around me won’t ever have to compromise one thing for another.” By extension, the empathy and compassion he’s developed inform the political platform he hopes to one day carry with him into the White House, one which includes an immigration policy that “makes citizenship status more attainable and acknowledges undocumented people as people;” the abolition of private education and the implementation of a public education system whose funding is not determined by local income tax; and a more aggressive response to climate change and economic inequality. “Homelessness in the U.S. — the richest country in the history of the world — should not be a thing,” argued Monreal.
Any chance of a Monreal Administration is still a ways away. In the meantime, he’s headed to law school. He’s applied to the University of California Los Angeles, the University of Southern California, the University of California Berkeley, Harvard, and is in the process of applying to New York University and Columbia. The road ahead of Yvan Monreal is long and challenging, but his ambition is insatiable, his will unrelenting, and his possibilities limitless.