I have experienced first-hand the transformational changes that have happened in our communities over the last +3 decades. I am proudly born and raised in the Inland Empire and our region has been the growth engine of California. It’s hard for me to believe now, that there were more cattle than people when I was growing up (in the community that is now the City of Jurupa Valley).
My first exposure to public service was being a student board member at Jurupa Unified School District. I was active in school (varsity football and captain of the tennis team) but nothing opened my eyes like seeing the impact of local nonpartisan elected officials making decisions about our education. I saw the power of communities expressing their opinions, the board of education voting on policy or budget and then seeing these decisions implemented in my own classroom. This childhood opportunity was an inspiration for me to serve on the School Board at Riverside Unified School District (RUSD). In fact, the first action I proposed was to establish the same student board member position at RUSD - to reinforce the importance of student voice being at the center of our decision-making process.
Understanding the community is important but being on the pulse of family needs is critical. My mom never had the opportunity to go to college or get access to vocational training. She had to take tough jobs, like working at an assembly line, to put food on the table for my two younger sisters and I. We had to move frequently when rents would rise but my resilient mom ensured that our entire k-12 education was in the same school district for a little stability. The love and dedication from my mom and incredible mentors in the region made me feel empowered regardless of our struggles. My gratitude to all of the caring community mentors inspired my wife and I to serve as a ‘Big Couple’ in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program among other activities.