Widgets Magazine

Setting up back home

Stanford alum Rey Saldaña ´10 runs for City Council in San Antonio, TX

Courtesy of Rey Saldaña

Most people go to college to escape their hometown, but for Rey Saldaña ’09 M.A. ’10, five years and three degrees from Stanford–not to mention catching for Cardinal baseball–served as mere interludes between his deep involvement in improving his city of San Antonio, Texas. Now his dreams have begun to crescendo following his post-graduation decision to return to San Antonio and run for city council.

“For me, the opportunity to run for office was never something I was thinking about, but the opportunity kind of presented itself,” said Saldaña, who has begun his campaign for the city council election in May.

While the specifics of his current aspirations may be new, the love for San Antonio has remained with Saldaña ever since his days in one of the city’s public schools. Two Stanford alumni have served as the guiding stars of Saldaña’s path ever since he first came into contact with them as a high school student. Julian Castro ’96, mayor of San Antonio, and his brother, Joaquin Castro ’96, a Democrat in the Texas House of Representatives, introduced Saldaña to the ideas of leaving home for school and returning home to help.

“They introduced me to schools like Stanford–without them, I wouldn’t have applied,” Saldaña said. “I’ve been following their career very literally, even studying the same majors they did as Stanford students.”

Saldaña held a summer internship under Joaquin Castro in college, beginning his political career.

“Those two guys are really great public servants and elected officials, and they helped me find a direction for my own passion,” he said. “I think we have parallel visions for this city.”

One of those visions, in fact, goes toward helping more students form connections like the one Saldaña felt with the Castros. Running a campaign that focuses on increasing opportunities for San Antonio’s children, Saldaña’s been backing up his words with the grit of chalk dust and the smudge of pencil lead. Tutoring underprivileged students throughout the fall, and beginning a teaching job this winter has illustrated the ins and outs of the city’s struggling education system, he says.

“Stories like myself are unfortunately not normal,” he said. “Mentors are tougher to find, and I think that shouldn’t be the case.”

His role as a Stanford graduate has already helped him make a difference in San Antonio as a mentor. But his ability to leverage his Stanford connections is what may give Saldaña’s campaign the most power in spreading his message. Stanford computer science students built his campaign website, and many of his friends and classmates have already contributed time and money to his cause.

And of course his story wouldn’t be complete without the tale of one Stanford friendship embedded throughout. Matt Platkin ‘09, who befriended Saldaña on the pair’s first day of their freshman year, now serves as Saldaña’s head campaign manager.

“This race is going to come down to who’s willing to work the hardest, and I think we’re going to come out on top,” Platkin said. “The issue is who has the best interests of the voters in mind, and I don’t think anyone can dispute Rey’s intentions.”

“I don’t think [less] quantity of experience is going to be a barrier when you have the types of experience Rey has,” he said of Saldaña’s young age compared to his opponents.

Rey agreed that his internships in San Antonio city council and for the U.S. Department of the Treasury, combined with his exposure to Palo Alto and to Stanford ideals, will prove valuable.

“There’s a spirit of taking risks and being involved in something more worthwhile than your own success,” he said of Stanford.

In the meantime, Saldaña and Platkin will run a full schedule of campaigning, debating, and going door to door through San Antonio until the election in May. It’s a high-profile risk for someone safe within the Farm until last June, but Saldaña believes his dedication to his residents will shine brightest.

“I’m always worried about some acronym someone in the audience is going to throw out that I missed, but walking down 5,000 streets, knocking on 5,000 doors, and talking to 5,000 people is what matters,” he said.