Fla. House of Reps. candidate Marco Peña discusses his days as SGA president
Published: Wednesday, September 12, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, September 12, 2012 17:09
Marco Peña, 32, is running for District 49 of the Florida House of Representatives in hopes of bringing his knowledge of the university system to Tallahassee to represent the students of all the colleges within the district, including UCF, Full Sail and Valencia College.
As a student at UCF, Peña held a seat in Senate his freshman year, worked up to vice president during his sophomore year and maintained two terms as Student Government Association president in 2001 and 2002. After graduating in 2003 with a degree in marketing, Peña continued to maintain ties with the university and recently toured the campus to see what changes had taken place since he had been a student. The two most notable changes: Memory Mall has grass and the football stadium is actually a stadium.
“When I was a student, Memory Mall was just dirt and I talked about us having a real stadium but didn’t think it would happen,” Peña said.
As SGA president, Peña worked to bring us a larger Recreation and Wellness Center and the Multicultural Student Center. Nearly a decade later, both have become staple resources for students. However, there is another notable act Peña is still remembered by — the evening in 2002 when he was arrested on charges of disorderly conduct and resisting arrest without violence after trying to stick up for a fraternity brother outside the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity house.
The Central Florida Future sat down with Peña to discuss his upcoming election, his feelings about that night at the Sigma house and his memories of his time at UCF.
Central Florida Future: What was your favorite moment as a UCF student?
Marco Peña: The day we had the first Universal Knights at Islands of Adventure. We wanted an event that would create a lasting tradition at UCF; something that would get students together and raise school spirit. Up until that time, our large events were all around football. We thought of a crazy idea to rent out the biggest amusement park that would be interesting to students. We had 10,000 students show up and it was a fantastic event. Now it’s still going on.
CFF: You also started Safe Ride during your presidency. Can you talk a little about that?
Peña: It was to give students a ride home in a dangerous situation. We were thinking about any dangerous situation where people aren’t making smart decisions. It was a program we needed. Many other universities had already had it. It provides safety, especially for the growing student population.
CFF: What mark do you think your SGA presidency left on the university?
Peña: Student government, after I graduated, won two awards in the state that had a lot to do with what we did while I was in administration. We put together a framework for the organization in a way that largely lasts today. Before that, we had a 30-person cabinet and we ran with it. Now there are teams of four or five people doing [different] things and you can manage everything more effectively.
CFF: What do you have to say about the incident that occurred in front of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon house during your presidency?
Peña: As student body president I fought for the students I was elected to serve, and when I saw incidents, I spoke out against them. I was an outspoken advocate for this student. As you get older, you learn there are always better ways to handle situations, but I will always fight for the people I’m elected to serve and I won’t back down from authority when I feel I’m in the right.
CFF: How would you winning this election benefit the UCF community?
Peña: UCF had almost a $50 million budget cut in the last legislative session, and I think it’s important to have someone in Tallahassee that will fight for UCF. In this seat, we will have the opportunity to represent a lot of universities and that lends itself for participation in important higher education decisions. It’s my alma mater; I want to make sure we continue to make it excellent. I understand how the university operates and that’s important.
CFF: Why should students vote for Marco Peña?
Peña: There are two big issues: the economy and education. We need to make sure that when students graduate, there’s a job out there for them. A job that is in their field of interest, and in this race, I am the only candidate with business experience and to understand how to build a diverse economy you need that. I want to see all UCF Knights succeed and being in this district gives me the opportunity to do that.