DePaul alum runs for Illinois Congress

Simple things like playing dominos with an elderly woman or talking to a veteran about his experiences. Looking back on his time at DePaul, 26-year-old Jorge Zavala still remembers Vincentian Service Day in 2007 when he and other STARS mentors worked with the elderly in Lincoln Square.

This is just one of the experiences from DePaul that have helped Zavala get to where he is today. On Sept. 22, Zavala announced his candidacy for congressman of the 4th Congressional District of Illinois. His three years at DePaul as an international studies major in combination with his involvement on campus prepared him to be a socially responsible leader.

“It was a really great opportunity to network with other students but at the same time really foster that holistic attitude that I really think DePaul wants to promote with its student body,” Zavala said. “So while my classes were one type of environment, it was really giving me that extra effort to get involve with the community, which as always been an important aspect of who I am.”

Following graduation, Zavala worekd with refugee and immigrant communities across Asia and returned to Chicago to work as a diplomatic agent with the Consulate General of Mexico in Chicago.

Sitting in Arts & Letters Hall, a building that wasn’t around for his time at DePaul, Zavala reiterated the impact of giving back at DePaul.

“Whether you’re a student, faculty member or alum, social responsibility is something that is really integrated and not just on posters or just a motto, but it’s part of your classes and extracurriculars,” Zavala said. “So for me, it’s one of those things that I did cherish.”

Through his involvement in Student Government Association, DePaul Activities Board, the Student Leadership Institute and more, he saw the kind of impact he could make.

“I think that’s what DePaul really taught me, that no matter how small you think an action is, it has a very big effect on the entire community,” Zavala said.

Zavala is the youngest candidate in the state running for a congressional seat. He is going up against Congressman Luis V. Gutierrez who has been in office since 1993. Gutierrez was arrested Tuesday, Oct. 8 during an immigration rally outside the Capitol. Zavala said the 4th district is a diverse area in many ways and that the demographic makeup is about 65 percent Latino. Zavala said he recognizes the importance of immigration but that there are many other issues that tie in with the immigration platform.

Zavala is the youngest candidate in the state running for a congressional seat and said he sees his youth as both an opportunity and a challenge.

“As a young candidate I can bring fresh perspectives that cannot necessarily be compared to those who have be in government for a wide range of years,” Zavala said. “Whereas I bring fresh ideas that are reflective of what people want, but at the same time I understand the policies and procedures associated with government and the way we can foster positive change through federal funds and bring them back to the people.”

Zavala said it is a great opportunity to help show others to “have faith in our youth.”

Rob Pabon, a DePaul alum and program coordinator for United Latinos For Empowerment, Education and Development, worked with Zavala at DePaul and said he was a role model for others.

“He comes from a background of someone who sees the issues, knows the issues and the issues touch him,” Pabon said. “He was definitely a change agent within the community and was always involved with social justice issues.”