At a recent visit to UCLA, Rep. Nanette Barragán stopped to talk with community members and students during a special public discussion event. (photos by Jonathan Van Dyke)
Last June, Nanette Barragán ’00, U.S. Representative for the 44th Congressional District and a huge Dodgers fan, received an invite of a lifetime — throwing out the ceremonial first pitch at Dodger Stadium. Asking for advice ahead of time, she was told, “I advise you to throw from the front of the grass, not from the mound. You have certain challenges.”
“I wonder how many men he said that to? I was shocked, but it happens all the time,” she told a rapt crowd at UCLA’s James West Alumni Center, as part of a special discussion hosted by UCLA Government and Community Relations and the UCLA Latino Alumni Association.
As a lawyer and now Congresswoman, Barragán (D-San Pedro) is looking to inspire the next generation of women, and especially women of color, to break barriers and feel at home in male-dominated arenas, including law, Congress, and even the White House.
UCLA alumnus and newly elected U.S. Rep. Jimmy Gomez has not forgotten his higher education roots, advocating for students at every step of his political career.
You don’t have to convince U.S. Rep. Jimmy Gomez about the power of higher education, not even a little bit.
“When I graduated from high school, I didn’t have any plans to go to college,” he said. “I worked at Subway and Target right after graduation. Working those two jobs back to back just to make ends meet was a grueling experience.”
Each day, Gomez transformed from “sandwich artist” between 5 and 10:30 p.m. to stocker overnight and into the morning. The routine was tough on him.
Dennis Gutierrez is always ready to extoll the virtues of UCLA and higher education.
Dennis Gutierrez is a man with a message. He has never been afraid to speak up, and that stick-to-itiveness has served him well in every new vocation and every cause he’s promoted, including that of his alma mater UCLA.
“I’ve had nine careers in my life,” he said with a laugh reflecting on his own personal resume. “It’s like, ‘What do you do?’ Look, I learned a long time ago that you follow your passion. If you do not follow your passion, it’s work, and if it’s work, you’ll never be good at it.”
Juana Hernandez uses her position at the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce to help students and build partnerships with higher education institutions.
It takes a Westwood Village? Juana Hernandez, who graduated from UCLA in 2009, said she owes a lot to the greater UCLA community, a community she has been an active member of since graduating, paying it forward to the next generation of students.
Her parents immigrated to Southern California from Guanajuato, Mexico in the 1970s. They wanted to give their children the best shot they could in America, and understood the importance of education in that process, but their experience with the U.S. education system wasn’t just limited, it was non-existent.
Hernandez, however, came out the other side stronger than ever, putting in the kind of civic work for students and higher education that has garnered her the UCLA Rising Advocate of the Year award.
Shirley Wang is the founder and CEO of Plastpro Inc., Chair of The UCLA Foundation board, and also a well-regarded philanthropist.
Shirley Wang’s grandfather fled the Communist Revolution in China, and the lesson he learned has been a guiding light for her family: “He realized that one could lose his or her possessions, home, and even country or family members. But the one thing no one can take away from you is your education.”
The path Wang’s grandmother and mother blazed before her may serve as even more of an inspiration for her ascent to becoming founder and CEO of Plastpro Inc., Chair of The UCLA Foundation board, and also a well-regarded philanthropist.
Federal Relations Executive Director Francisco Carrillo addresses a crowd on federal appropriations talking points during a recent campus event.
Francisco Carrillo was a self-described knucklehead when he attended UCLA, so much so that he didn’t make it through school on his first attempt.
He took his education for granted the first time around, but when given a second chance to make good, he did, and now the “prodigal son” returns as Executive Director of Federal Relations for UCLA with a mission to promote his alma mater at the federal level and to advocate for higher education priorities in Washington, DC.
“My undergrad story is interesting,” Carrillo said with a weary smile. “I didn’t go the normal route. I actually got dismissed from school because my academic performance was suffering. I was very young and naive. But thankfully, I got back in.”