Denisse Garcia became ASI president at a time of unprecedented turmoil at Sacramento State, making a memorable impact in a short time. (Photo courtesy of Denisse Garcia)
By Dixie Reid
Denisse Garcia, a May 2020 graduate, held the briefest presidency in the history of Associated Students Inc. (ASI) — just two months. And her one particular act of generosity during that time will feed hundreds of Sacramento State students.
As ASI’s vice president for Finance, Garcia was in line to succeed Christian Landaverde, who resigned the ASI presidency in early March. The new role for Garcia came with the presidential scholarship, which would have given her $1,369.50 above the $16,442 scholarship she received as the VP of Finance.
Rather than accept the extra money, Garcia donated it all to the ASI Food Pantry.
“I didn’t think it was right to take the increase, especially while we’re going through a pandemic,” she said. “And I wanted to be sure that I was serving as president for the right reasons and not for the money.”
Data has shown that nearly half the Sac State student population has faced food insecurity.
“This is amazing and so noble of Denisse,” Food Pantry coordinator Elizabeth Villalobos said of Garcia's financial donation. “It can easily buy around 7,000 pounds of food for the Food Pantry” from the Sacramento Food Bank.
Garcia, a Business Administration major, was sworn in as ASI president March 20, the same day that Sac State moved to distance learning because of COVID-19.
In-person classes had been canceled a week earlier, and almost all of Sac State’s 31,000 students were gone from campus. At the same time, ASI leadership was busy canceling a slew of scheduled events, including one to promote student participation in the U.S. Census, and moving most of its services online.
“Denisse became president at the most volatile time in ASI’s history,” said Sandra Gallardo, ASI’s executive director. “She is calm, deliberative, and cool under pressure. That is exactly what ASI and the students of Sacramento State needed in a leader during this uncertain time.”
The ASI Board of Directors recently gave Garcia the “I Am ASI Award,” its highest honor.
Garcia’s introduction to student government leadership came in February 2019, when she was appointed vice president for Finance to fill a vacancy. She then ran for the office and was elected for the 2019-20 academic year.
“ASI does a lot for students,” Garcia said, “and I wanted to be a part of that, rather than just going to school and graduating. I wanted to use my experience at Sac State to help others.”
She grew up in the Central Valley town of Visalia. Her parents, Patricia Campos and Jose Garcia, chose the unusual spelling of her name after meeting a woman named Denisse at a baby shower.
Garcia came to Sacramento State as a freshman in 2016, and completed her degree in four years.
Because of the coronavirus crisis, she’ll have to wait until next spring to join her fellow graduates and the Class of 2021 for expanded commencement ceremonies to accommodate both classes at the Golden 1 Center.
By then, Garcia said she wants to have a job with the NBA’s Sacramento Kings, the franchise that makes its home at Golden 1.
“I had some plans for after graduation, but things have changed,” she said. “I wanted to go into the sports industry and hopefully work for the Kings. Since the NBA is on hold right now, the Kings don’t know what’s to be done with their internship program, and they’re not hiring.”
For the summer, Garcia will continue her job as a student assistant in Sacramento State’s Division of Administration and Business Affairs, working on projects from home.
The most challenging part of her time as ASI president, she said, was staying connected to students who no longer were on campus. She and her fellow board members have used social media to stay in touch and learn how students felt about the changes brought on by the pandemic.
Soon after the campus closure and the move to online teaching, Garcia said, students were confused and worried.
“Now that we’ve been at it for two months, it’s become the new reality, and we’re realizing that this pandemic is bigger than anybody expected. People are starting to move on,” she said, “realizing that their education is important and that they have to pass their classes.
“They’re making the best of it and trying to be as positive as possible.”