Catholic University Sophomore Diego Rojas believes Theodore Roosevelt was correct when he said the first responsibility of an American citizen is involvement in community service.
“If you have a calling, it shouldn't be something that’s contingent on whether it's the right time to do it, or whether it’s the right place,” said Rojas. “You should answer that call and live up to it.”
Following his own call to public service, Rojas will be sworn in for his second term of public office by Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser on Jan. 9. University President Dr. Peter Kilpatrick will attend the ceremony.
Rojas was re-elected on Nov. 8 for a two-year term as Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner for District 5A-4, an area including Catholic University, the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, and the wider Brookland community. He was first elected in November 2021 at the age of 18, which made him the youngest elected official in the city. Rojas grew up in Florida but was born in D.C.
Rojas has served as ANC for the past year and his platform includes increased public safety and community engagement.
“The great thing about it is there's so much engagement already and we just want to grow and expand on that,” Rojas said.
Commissioners represent community members in the District of Columbia’s 40 districts on local issues including zoning, streets, recreation, social services, education, planning, budget, and health services.
“It’s been great to be that bridge and really have good collaboration between the (University and D.C. government) and to develop a great relationship that really benefits all students and the community,” said Rojas. “I’m just glad that I was given the opportunity to do this.”
As a commissioner, Rojas represents the district by participating in a voting session once a month, but in between, he meets with other commissioners, plans meeting agendas, and communicates with the University and local community. Commissioners vote on building permits and project schedules and Rojas helped with the planning progress of the Conway School of Nursing, which broke ground in March 2022.
“A big part of what we do as commissioners is letting community residents around the area get updated on certain events going on, what impact a construction has on their daily lives, whether roads will be shut down, or things that will be going on at night,” Rojas said.
Rojas supported the new lighting project of the University baseball and softball fields in summer 2022, benefiting the teams that play at night.
“At Catholic University, there’s so much going on, especially construction-wise recently,” said Rojas. “There’s been a lot of great things that I’ve been able to get involved in. … It really expedites the process. It’s a huge advantage.”
In August, Rojas joined other commissioners to create a special public safety task force that he wants to build on during his second term. The task force encourages community members to build up communication with law enforcement to create a safer neighborhood.
Outside of politics, Rojas plays for the men’s golf team and is a member of the Busch School Student Advisory Council and Busch School Ambassador Program.
Rojas said his faith is important in his role as a public servant. A big reason he chose the University is the opportunity to study at an institution that places faith at the forefront.
“First and foremost is to be the best Catholic that I can be, to try to live a life that Jesus would want me to,” said Rojas. “And then also to be the best American that I can be.”