Matthew Gonzales (高榮森 – he/they) is a mixed-American (Chinese/Mexican/Irish) recent graduate of Pomona College, new to the role and field of educational empowerment. He is quite passionate about facilitating community building, fostering a culture of inclusion, improving equity, and providing an environment for healthy and constructive learning. As one of the VA Youth Facilitation Coordinators, Matthew looks forward to leveraging his lived experiences and skills to help give youth the platform to explore their own passions and interests. As a former student and youth of the DMV he wants to give the diverse APIDA (Asian Pacific Islander Desi American) youth of the area the tools and environment to thrive, much like he was afforded by the compassionate community members before him.
Matthew graduated from Pomona College, receiving two Bachelor’s in Arts in Economics and Anthropology, respectively. Over the course of his academic career, he wrote numerous academic papers/articles and conducted research. This culminated in his senior exercise in Economics and senior thesis in Anthropology. In his Economics exercise entitled “To Food Climate: The Impact of Political Ideology on Enrollment in CalFresh,” Matthew utilized quantitative methods to test economic models, focusing on linear regression analysis and causal inference in order to identify the link between the political climate (via voting distribution patterns) of all 58 counties in California and their enrollment rates in CalFresh (Food Stamps). His senior thesis in Anthropology was titled “To Sleep at Night, Peace as a Luxury: A Case Study on the Asian Pacific American Dispute Resolution Center (APADRC) utilizing Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) as a tool for a Legal Pluralist Model of Reproduction.” This paper employed qualitative social research skills of interviewing, conducting focus groups, observing social norms, and taking field notes to perform insightful and ethical ethnographic research on the efficacy of ADR as a tool for community engagement. Matthew hopes to blend these academic skill sets to provide a powerful foundation for the youth in the program.
During the past four years, Matthew has been intimately involved and committed to the communities to which he belongs. Three of his favorite and valued commitments included being a Head Mentor for their campus’ Asian American Mentorship Program (AAMP), a long-term sponsor for the Chicanx Latinx Student Affairs (CLSA) office, and chief volunteer and tutor for the Saturday Tongan Education Program (STEP). Matthew was responsible for leading over 150 students through the facilitation of programs, curriculum, and events to create environments for students of color to develop intellectually, socially, personally, academically, and politically. Some highlights include organizing mutual aid fundraising efforts, advocating for stronger recognition and acknowledgment from our administration, and putting together large-scale events like retreats or conferences. However, his work did not remain just to the large scale. On a more granular level, Matthew, while serving as a peer mentor, was able to assist first-year students in their transition to the Claremont Colleges and, while a tutor, provided rigorous academic tutoring, cultural activities, and lessons through mindfulness.
Matthew is exceedingly excited to lend his body and mind to the incredible and mindful youth of the DMV. Having had the privilege of sitting in the shade of those that have come before him – Matthew hopes to provide the same for those coming after.