By We’Ced Youth Media
Photo courtesy of Jesse Ornelas
Editor’s Note: This is the first profile in We’Ced’s #MeetyourMercedCandidates series, which hopes to introduce young people and new voters in Merced to people running for office in their community. All four District 1 candidates, Sonia F. Alshami, Lakisha Jenkins, Jesse, Ornelas and Anthony Martinez, were contacted. We requested candidates complete a questionnaire and submit their responses. Profiles posted are from candidates who responded to our request.
Name: Jesse Ornelas
Education: B.A. Chicano Studies
Occupation: Project Assistant at Health Equity Project
Residence: Merced, CA
Running for: Merced City Council, District 1
Why are you running for political office?
It has always been a goal of mine, but because of how politics was in Merced I thought I would have to wait til i was older and wealthy. Then district elections came into play. With district elections now a reality I have an opportunity to represent a community who for way too long has been ignored, marginalized, and stratified.
What changes are you trying to enact/bring about in Merced?
I would actually invest in our youth. Investment in youth has only been an empty promise that is made during election season. I will put action into my words.
How important is the youth vote for you? What are you doing to gain the youth vote?
The youth vote is very critical to my campaign. Without them i probably won’t be successful . It is not what i am doing . It is what have i done. I have supported invest in youth campaign several times during city council meetings . Where i have voiced my displeasure with the city officials in investing in the incarceration of the youth not their futures. I have with the help of the Merced Brown Berets start a summer youth program , Shoot Straight Youth Program, that was self funded. A couple of the youth i still mentor to this day. I also must mention that i have coached countless youth sports teams for several years.
Do you have kids, and if so, what schools do they attend?
Yes I do. I have a daughter that goes to Golden Valley High School, a stepson that attends Valley School, and three little ones that attend Fireside Head Start.
What makes you different from the other candidates?
What makes me different is that my platform is gathered from the people who live in my district. So the people of my district are the only special interest that I have.
How connected are you to the community of Merced?
I like to say that I am well connected to Merced. My family has lived in Merced County since the early 1900’s . My parents were both raised in farm labor camps and worked hard with their families. I moved to Merced County at the age of 15. I later moved to Merced at the age of 18. Later in my life i decided to do what it takes to change my life and attended Merced College. This is where I learned to get involved in my community. I have helped organized several community events with success, one event being the annual Cesar Chavez Celebration.
What are you going to do about bringing more jobs to Merced?
I am going to search long and hard for jobs that pay a living wage. While at the same time push to get the people of Merced ready for the jobs the high-speed rail will most likely bring. I also will work as a team player with other city officials to make Merced more attractive to well-paying companies.
Do you like animals? What is your favorite one?
Yes. Being an indigenous man I see all animals as sacred. If I had to pick a favorite I would have to say an eagle.
What are some of your hobbies?
I like to read and miss being a student very much so I like to research different academic journal articles and different cultures. Going to the gym is always on my daily to-do list. It is where I go to think in peace.