By Estefania Magdalena | Staff Writer

Alex Sosa, a 34-year-old Hawaiian Studies student at KapCC, decided early in the fall semester to run for president of the Student Congress. He was the only person who ran for the position.

Sosa had worked in another leadership positions before as a bank manager for seven years, but one day he realized that although his job represented a wealthy source of income, and he wasn’t happy with his life. Raised in Texas, he decided to pack his clothes and move to Hawaiʻi to start a new life in 2016 . It was a bold move, but Sosa is used to challenges as his childhood was hard. 

“I have a lot of life experience, I am a very lucky person to have the life that I have,” he said. “The experience I get, it is not only professional experience, but I have a lot of life experience that I think it prepared me to look at this pandemic for it’s different… I always tell people I remember what is like to have to survive with 20 dollars a month. It is the worst feeling in the world but you can do it.” 

As Student Congress president at Kapiʻolani Community College, Sosa is drawing on the difficulties he has survived. He understands that the reality is that a lot of students are going through challenges like what he has experienced. Not all students are 18 years old, and there are very different realities: single mothers with kids to feed, students having no one to look up for them, and homeless or unemployed students. He is excited to now be in a position to help other students who need resources and help. 

“To the students that are going through a hard time, ask for help,” he said. “It is good to ask for help and what I know is that the only bad thing that can happen is that someone could say no. But we have to keep asking for the help we need, until we get that help.” 

When Sosa was just a newborn baby, his biological mother gave him into adoption to a family of Mexican origin, which he was raised by. His adoptive parents didn’t have a lot of economic resources to offer him, but he said they gave him all the necessary values and tools in life to know how to be a good person and never forget where he comes from. 

“We didn’t have a lot, and that was painful, but my parents taught me that we had enough,” Sosa said. “My parents were the kind of people that would never hurt anybody and never walk out anybody that were in need.” 

Alex Sosa, 34, grew up in Texas but moved to Hawai‘i on a whim. (Photo courtesy of Alex Sosa)

His mother used to talk to him only in Spanish, and he had to learn by himself to speak English, being guided by what he could hear and watch in another places outside his house. A very hard moment in his life was when he lost his father at the age of 12, and then lost his mother when he was 19 years old. 

“I had no one to turn to and I was completely alone,” he said. “What I did to survive was use all the lessons that my parents gave me and that helped me to get through those difficulties. They teach me to never do harm and that good things come for us in life, if our actions are good.”

Sosa is bringing that perspective to the role of the president of the Student Congress. His job is to ensure that there is a space for dialogue between all the educational components and departments that make up KapCC and not just to get students involved in these dialogues, but also to make sure they capture what students think about the system.

“I want to see our college in a better place than when I arrived,” he said. “I am ensuring that our people have, and when I say our people are not only our students but our faculty, to feel aloha and that we support them.” 

Shannon Sakaue, the faculty advisor of the Student Congress, that Sosa has a lot of ideas and is very well spoken and articulate. He helps the team that makes up the Student Congress with Vice President Nikko Bolo, Treasurer Jenny Brown, Public Relations Levy Benitez, and Secretary Sosie Nikoghossian — to get along well as a whole. 

I guess student leadership is an opportunity for people to learn skills and ways of operating in a professional world before they are in the professional world, so we always encourage students to participate and engage with leadership opportunities on campus,” Sakaue said. 

Student Congress collects the opinion of students on various topics through surveys and compiles these results in the system. Based on the information obtained from the surveys, Student Congress dictates the decisions and projects to be carried out for that semester.

“For me, what it means to be able to do a good job, is being able to provide a touchstone that students can access information that they feel they need to access in a fast way,” Sosa said. “I want to be able to just bring resources that are good resources, not just a phone number, leave us a message, we will call you back.” 

Sosa said that his objective and commitment to the students is to help them to realize all the resources they have available in order to find a solution to the problems that arise. Many times students are not informed of all these resources that are available to them in order to be of help.

“I can only imagine what it is like for students that maybe are having issues academically, and they are trying to figure out which their next move is going to be for the next semester and they don’t know resources or things they should be looking at,” he said. “So it is unable to think of being able to create a conversation but to also be able to bring all of the partners together and create a dialogue.” 

Since the pandemic began, the Student Congress has had to adapt to doing its work online. The monthly meetings are held via Zoom, which generates a certain feeling of distance. And many times not everyone is available all the time, so working is more difficult. Regarding this challenge, Sosa said that it is a very strange process for him, since he is a person who likes to do things right now and with the pandemic this possibility no longer exists. 

“Sometimes it’s really annoying and sometimes it’s really painful because you want to do a good job, you want to be the best that you can be,” Sosa said. “Right now the best thing that we can do for each other is not to only share aloha, but to really have compassion behind us. And compassion means a lot to so many people, and it can mean a lot of different things that can be expressed in different ways.”

Sosa aspires to be a better version of himself every day and for this he draws on the feedback provided by his mentors and faculty advisor. He also likes working with people who are not afraid to tell him when he makes mistakes and says that his three strengths as a person are honesty, his long-life experience, and his resilience to cope with adverse situations.

He said that he realized that there is no real place for students to look up at all the resources available, which is what he is working in order to make it change. For him doing a job means making all the resources that are available, accessible to the student body.

“I recognize that I have more resources available too because of my position, so what about someone that is not the president of the students body?” Sosa said. “Let me think about that person and how to build an infrastructure that makes that process or takes away that worry from that student.”

At the moment, the Student Congress is operating on online modality and can be contacted to kapccsc@hawaii.edu. Sakaue encouraged students to get involved into leadership positions on campus and said that the Board of Students Publications is looking for students interested to get involved and they can be contacted at kccbosp@hawaii.edu.