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Phoenix Forward

University of Phoenix alumnus runs for Ariz. office

Alumnus Matthew Cerra is running for office in Arizona

There’s a fresh face in Arizona politics these days: University of Phoenix alumnus Matthew Cerra is running for a Democratic seat in the Arizona House of Representatives on a platform of education reform.

Cerra found inspiration in an unlikely place: an Arizona prison, where he worked as an addiction counselor. “We wanted to help inmates improve their lives and rejoin society,” he explains. “I realized then that’s what public service is all about — helping your neighbors.”

His home state’s struggles with its public school system motivated Cerra to launch his first campaign for office. Cerra has earned two Master of Arts in Education degrees, and he aims to use that experience in the Statehouse, shaping policies for education reform.

Cerra feels that current elected officials aren’t heeding proven strategies on the best ways to prepare today’s students for tomorrow’s jobs. “Instead, we’re cutting public education budgets down to nothing,” he says. “I think that should change.”

My goal is to get more people involved in the political process, regardless of their views or party affiliation.

Public schools also need to get young people excited about the political process, Cerra says. “We need to teach our students the paths available for political involvement. You’re eligible to run for state and local office from the age of 18, so get out there, file the paperwork and participate.”

Cerra believes that when ordinary people become politically engaged, democracy works better. “The purpose of government is to benefit as many people as possible by reducing barriers, not lining the pockets of special interest groups,” he asserts.

“My goal is to get more people involved in the political process, regardless of their views or party affiliation,” Cerra says. “In Arizona, over one-third of all races are unopposed. More people need to step up.”

He walks the walk, too. He built his grassroots campaign while balancing his job as a corporate software trainer. “I’m not wealthy or politically connected, but I want to make a difference,” he explains.