Luchadora Profile: Rosie Torres Fighting for Students in Oakland

Rosie Torres grew up in Stockton, California. When she was in middle school, her parents divorced. From then on, she was raised by her mom, who went from being a homemaker to having to work two jobs to make ends meet. During this time of adjustment, Rosie was bused to school in Lodi, which was about a 40 minute bus ride from home. She started to cut class and at one point missed 28 days of school in one quarter.

In Lodi, Rosie started to gravitate toward other kids who cut class and who weren’t focused on their studies. Looking back on her own educational experience during this tumultuous time, Rosie said that it seemed like nobody at her school cared about her. Nobody cared to call her mom to ask what was going on. Rosie even dropped out of school in the ninth grade.

“I was ignored and not expected to succeed,” Rosie said in describing her life during those early teenage years.

Eventually Rosie was able to turn things around academically and attended San Francisco State University where she earned a bachelor’s degree in marketing. And then she went to Albany Law School where she earned her J.D.

“When I started out as a lawyer, I was 30 year old single mom and was living in Stockton, which is where I grew up,” Rosie said. “My first real job as an attorney was as a prosecutor. A coworker who I had gone to high school with was mentoring students at a continuation high school for mock trial. He invited me to come along, and I helped him train high school students in debate. They did a great job, and this experience inspired me to give back.”

After practicing law for a few years in Stockton, Rosie moved to Oakland, and she continued to involve herself in the local community. She became involved in La Raza Lawyers, the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and then the National Women’s Political Caucus.

After establishing herself and her law practice in Oakland, people in the community started to approach her about running for office. In 2012, she was elected to the Oakland Unified School District Board.

Rosie Torres is currently serving as a board member for District Five on the Oakland Unified School District Board. Her priority is to serve children and families first. Rosie’s hope for her community is that the local schools provide an excellent education so that students are motivated and inspired to come back to teach or be involved in some other way after completing college.

“When I decided to run for the school board, I thought, ‘who is showing up for the kids who had experiences like my own?,” Rosie said.

Some of the accomplishments that Rosie is most proud of since serving on the board include championing ethnic studies and pushing for a soccer field at one of the local middle schools in her district. Rosie was the first board member who was interested in the ethnic studies cause on her board and was pleased to advocate for ethnic studies classes to be offered. The soccer field in a middle school in her district is special to Rosie because it brings children from diverse backgrounds together bridging those who live in immigrant families to U.S. born children.

Currently, Rosie is running for re-election for District Five on the Oakland Unified School District. One of her goals is to bring the Puente program back to Oakland high schools so that more students become eligible for four year colleges and universities. Rosie also wants to continue to improve the teacher pipeline in Oakland by targeting parents who are enrolled in adult education classes about getting mothers and fathers to encourage their children to become teachers. Rosie mentioned that high teacher turnover costs her students because often teachers will come to Oakland to get experience and then leave for more affluent districts where they can earn more money and teach in a more stable environment.

For her work championing the cause of students in the Oakland Unified School District, we honor Rosie Torres as a luchadora.

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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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