By: Carrie Ratkevich, Senior Reporter
Former CHSS instructor and recent U.S. Congress hopeful Eric Griego said that through education and hard work he was able to defy the odds and become successful.
Griego said he was raised by his single mother, who worked two jobs to support her children. Public services such as Head Start and the Federal Pell Grant program gave him the hand up he needed to become successful, he said.
“I am proof; if we invest in a kid at an early age, he will succeed,” said Griego.
Having access to a quality public school is important for students to gain access to the middle class, said Griego. The rising cost of college, coupled with the decrease in free aid, has created fewer opportunities for people to move into a higher wage bracket, he said.
“We absolutely need to do something about the predatory student loans,” said Griego.
Graduates entering the public sector should have their student loans forgiven, a policy enacted in many other countries, he said.
Griego said he felt that students needed more than just grants and loans for success; reliable transportation, health care and a secure source of basic necessities are very important as well.
As an Albuquerque city Councilman, Griego pushed for better and more available public transportation, he said. Nationally, transit systems need to be updated. Several trillion dollars could be found to update transit by not extending the tax cuts enacted by the Bush administration for those making over $250,000 or more a year, closing loopholes for big polluters and putting a speculation tax on Wall Street, he said.
“We have the money to do it. It is just a question of priorities,” said Griego.
The Obama health care bill is a good start but there is much more to do, he said. Griego would like to see a Medicare-for-all bill in the near future, he said.
“There are no cost controls, so costs will continue to skyrocket,” he said.
As our energy needs continue to grow, it is becoming more important that we switch to more renewable sources, said Griego. He would also like to see national broadband coverage, he said.
Griego said his proudest moment as an instructor came in 2000, when he offered an extra credit project to his class. The students were to organize a debate among the candidates vying for the open congressional seat, he said. “They did it all themselves, it was the biggest and best debate of the race,” said Griego.
When the students went to get permission for the debate they were told that having political events on campus was against policy, he said.
“So we were learning about U.S. politics, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the First Amendment,” said Griego.
His students were able to get a lawyer and sit down with administration, said Griego. The administration not only allowed the debate but also changed the policy on political events, he said.