ICCTA Gandhi/King Peace Essay Scholarship

2019 Recipient

Joshua Rodriguez
Oakton Community College

"The future depends on what we do in the present."
-- Mahatma Gandhi

Earlier this school year, I discovered there were concerns at Oakton Community College from student employees regarding the need for a wage adjustment.

Oakton Community College student Joshua Rodriguez accepts his $1,000 Gandhi/King Peace Essay Scholarshipfrom Oakton Community College trustee emeritus Jody Wadhwa.

Oakton Community College student Joshua Rodriguez accepts his $1,000 Gandhi/King Peace Essay Scholarship from Oakton Community College trustee emeritus Jody Wadhwa.

After hearing testimonies from several students, and taking my own experiences as a student employee into account, I decided to take action and try to affect change.

Using the teachings of Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., I began implementing a nonviolent response in order to raise awareness of the issue; inform the students, administration, and the board of trustees about this concern; and work with all groups to enable a harmonious outcome that would serve every party involved.

I started by creating a petition and gathering signatures from over half of the current student employees at the Des Plaines and Skokie campuses (which is over 200). This served to both inform the students and gather their support. The petition signatures were then used to demonstrate, to the administration, the level of concern amongst our student employees and served as the impetus for working collaboratively to find an appropriate resolution.

The next step was to rally student employees to show our commitment for this cause. We broke all previously held records of student attendance at the October 2018 Board of Trustees meeting, and continued to have student representation at board meetings through March, even during our spring break. After reaching a consensus among ourselves, I represented the student employee body by speaking before the board of trustees during a number of monthly board meetings. Through this process, we were able to inform all parties involved, administration and board members, of the issue at hand; show that students were committed to this cause; and peacefully come together to find a harmonious resolution that caused virtually no disruption to the college.

By modeling Gandhi and King, I was able to create an environment where all involved parties had the ability to express their concerns and work together. I worked hard to ensure that this did not become an "us versus them" battle; one of the toughest challenges to overcome. Many students felt there might be a conflict with their voices being heard and became very emotional toward the college when speaking about this matter. King said, "Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that." I have needed to constantly remind students to focus on the problem itself and to be partners in the solution. An assassination of someone's character or credibility would be just as bad as violence itself and would not help to create a peaceful resolution.

Today, we find ourselves on the verge of an agreement to be implemented in the next budget cycle. By putting all these ideas into practice, we were able to, paraphrasing Gandhi, shake the world in a gentle way.

Joshua Rodriguez received a $1,000 scholarship for his winning essay, endowed by Oakton Community College trustee emeritus Jody Wadhwa and the Oakton Community College Education Foundation. For additional information on the Gandhi/King Peace Essay Scholarship, please contact Kim Villanueva at 1-800-454-2282, ext. 1.