Monica Rodriguez, a current candidate for Los Angeles City Council District Seven, is a first generation American. Her parents came to Los Angeles at a young age from Mexico and grew up in the Northeast part of the city in Highland Park and Cypress Park. Her father served in Vietnam and when he returned, her parents were married. Monica’s dad got a job at the General Motors Plant in the San Fernando Valley, and her family moved to Arleta when Monica was a baby. Her father was given an opportunity to become one of the first Latino firefighters in Los Angeles because of the consent decree. In 1974, a system was put in place where at least half of the Los Angeles City Fire Department’s new firefighters had to be minority to remedy racial disparities in the department.
“Advancement for my parents was all about work ethic. Nobody could outwork my dad, and my mom was very committed to her work in the home. I would say that my upbringing was very traditional,” Monica said. “Yet it was untraditional in the sense that my dad encouraged me and my sister to grow up and do anything that we wanted. My dad wanted us to be able to compete with the boys.”
Monica says that she was raised with a lot of freedom to explore subjects and to not limit herself because she was a girl. She and her sister attended the local public schools. She went to Sharp Avenue Elementary School, Pacoima Jr. High and graduated from San Fernando High School. To this day, Monica is still good friends with her former third grade teacher, Anita Zepeda, one of the co-founders of Vaughn Next Century Learning Center.
Recently, Ms. Zepeda told Monica that she needs to bring out her report card for her campaign for city council and share it because years ago, she wrote, “Monica is a natural leader.” Ms. Zepeda was one of Monica’s first examples of seeing a Latina in a position of authority. Anita was a strong Chicana who was outspoken but cared a lot about her students.
“She was tough but fair. My parents refer to Anita Zepeda to this day. She has done so much for the schools in the area where I have grown up and has been a constant influence in my life,” Monica said.
When Monica went to middle school, she started to get into trouble and skipped school, but her father cracked down on that behavior and she was able to turn things around before her ninth grade year. The missteps that she made as a junior high student didn’t affect her academic record in such a way that it would diminish her prospects for attending college.
“I never grew up thinking that I would go to college because my passion was singing and acting. I wanted to go to Broadway,” Monica said.
Monica performed in school musicals, theater, and choir. One day in school a teacher asked where the students planned to go to college, and while students were answering with the names of local colleges, Monica responded that she was going to Broadway. Her classmates voiced their dissatisfaction with this answer since Monica had always been an achiever. Monica’s English teacher and my classmates said, “you have to go to college” but nobody in her family had gone to college.
While Monica’s parents pushed competitiveness and hard work, they really hadn’t stressed college. After she had publicly said that she was going to Broadway and considered the response of her classmates, Monica started to think more about going to college and took the steps to prepare like taking the SAT and making sure that she was taking the right classes.
After graduating from San Fernando High School, Monica ended up attending Occidental College in Los Angeles. While she was in college, she began her work in public service working as an aide to former Los Angeles City Councilmember Mike Hernandez. She has served as policy advisor and community liaison to two former Councilmembers and to former Mayor Richard Riordan. Most recently, Monica has served as the Vice President on the Los Angeles City Board of Public Works. A believer in encouraging Latinas to have a seat at the policy making table, Monica founded and is the immediate past President of Latinas Lead California, an organization dedicated to the expanding the number of Latinas serving in elected office and appointed positions.
For her over two decades of public service and leadership to Los Angeles, we honor Monica Rodriguez as a luchadora.
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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