31 Days of SMA: I Became the First ASUCD President With a Physical Disability

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ASUCD | SMA News Today | Ryan Manriquez holds a sign that reads "My top advocacy priority is disability rights."

Photo courtesy of Ryan Manriquez

Day 25 of 31

This is Ryan Manriquez’s (@ryanmanriquezz) story:

Hi, everyone! My name is Ryan Manriquez, my pronouns are he/they, and I live with SMA type 2. I am 22 years old and a fifth-year transfer student at the University of California, Davis, double majoring in political science and communication.

When I got to Davis in the fall of 2020, I was looking to be a part of something bigger than myself, and I’d always wanted to help others. I decided to run to be a senator for the Associated Students, UC Davis (ASUCD), which represents all 31,000 undergraduate students.

Little did I know, ASUCD was much larger than a typical student government, as it operates the transit system for the city of Davis, the ASUCD Coffee House (the central place to eat on campus), and many other fantastic services for students. I got so involved with everything in our association, I decided to run for ASUCD president in the spring of 2021.

Spoiler alert: I was elected president!

To be the first ASUCD president with a physical disability — and the first transfer student to be president — is a huge honor. Since then, I have had the ability to work on accessibility improvements with our chancellor and campus planners, expand basic needs services on campus, and advocate for academic flexibilities to be granted to students.

ASUCD is the most financially autonomous association of students in the UC system, and we passed a budget of $17.7 million that was completely controlled by undergraduate students. This money will be used to bring entertainment to campus for students, operate Unitrans, the public transportation system, and employ the largest workforce of student employees at UC Davis.

None of this would have been possible without the constant support friends, family, and members of the SMA community have offered me throughout my life. I am forever grateful for the connections I have made with people, even on the other side of the country, I can lean on when I need them most.

SMA News Today’s 31 Days of SMA campaign will publish one story per day for SMA Awareness Month in August. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram for more stories like this, using the hashtag #31DaysofSMA, or read the full series.

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