Luchadora Profile: Erica Rosales Fights to Bring Access and Opportunity to Inner-City Students

Erica Rosales is a Los Angeles native. She graduated from Garfield High School of Stand and Deliver fame. When she was in high school, she was an A-student who took as many honors classes as she could get into. Her parents had the expectation that Erica and her siblings would attend college.

In her junior year French class, a woman came and talked about attending Smith College, one of the Seven Sisters. At the time, Erica had really only considered the University of California schools because that was where good students from public schools like her own set their sights. Before speaking to this Smith alumna, Erica had never considered attending a private liberal arts college. She started to do her own research and found out that Wellesley College was the highest ranked women’s college in the country and decided as a junior that she would be applying there.

Erica applied to and was accepted to Wellesley with a generous financial aid package. She also was accepted into the elite public institutions in California, UCLA and UC Berkeley. Erica said, “My parents were so supportive and said that because I had the money and the desire that I should go where I wanted to go.”

With her parents’ support, she flew out to Massachusetts and began her undergraduate career at Wellesley. Erica credits Wellesley’s service and support oriented environment with her success. Because the institution is small, she could easily navigate the financial aid office and other administrative services. She also relied on other Latina women at Wellesley to help inform her and help her get acclimated to her new home.

After graduating from Wellesley, Erica returned to California and enrolled at UCLA to earn her master’s degree in education, and then she started her career as the founding teacher of Animo Leadership Charter High School, the first school in the Green Dot family. She always believed in education reform and the idea that there should be good, quality schools in all neighborhoods. Erica had learned about charter schools while at Wellesley and had learned how relatively affluent families were using the law to turn some schools into charters so that they would have more control over the curriculum. Erica was interested in doing grassroots organizing to bring some charter schools in neighborhoods like her own where there weren’t many options.

When she finished student teaching at her alma mater Garfield High School, one of Erica’s teachers from Garfield was approached by the founder of Green Dot, Steve Barr, to be the founding principal of the new school, and Erica was the first teacher who was hired. Erica is particularly proud of how Animo Leadership Charter High School was founded because she and her colleagues went into the community and asked parents and youth what they wanted. “We built the school around them,” Erica said in explaining how she and her fellow educators created a new learning institution. She taught there for five years, and then she worked in admissions for about a year at Occidental College, which provided valuable experience for the work that she does now.

Currently, Erica is a program director of a college access organization, College Match, which helps highly motivated and talented students from Los Angeles inner-city high schools get into top-tier colleges. Erica asks local high school counselors and administrators to give her access to the top ten percent of the class. She then invites those students to an information session where she explains what College Match can do for them. College Match provides low income students with the college preparation and application experience that students from affluent families receive. Some of those services include college application counseling, SAT prep, and college visits. The students in College Match receive free SAT prep and free visits to colleges, and they receive counseling. This year there are 170 seniors in College Match’s cohort. Erica is looking to expand the next cohort to reach 190 students.

Erica is a luchadora because she has dedicated her career to bringing more opportunities and access to students in inner-city Los Angeles.

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Adriana Maestas

Adriana Maestas

Adriana Maestas is a Southern California-based freelance writer and education professional. Her writing has been published in NBC Latino,,, Alternet, and The Electronic Intifada.

She has worked in the non-profit sector, in the K-12 system, and in higher education in various capacities. When she's not writing stories or working on media projects, Adriana trains instructors to teach online at the University of California, Irvine.

She holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of California, Irvine and a master’s degree in public policy from Claremont Graduate University.

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