Public schools saved my life.
I was born in Monterey at Fort Ord military base. My father was a soldier in the Vietnam War, who didn’t return to our family after the war. I met him for the first time when I was 39 years old after finding him on the internet. He told me that the physical and mental scars of war made it too hard for him to return to his family. So, I grew up without him.
My mom was an immigrant from Panama who came to San Jose, California to be a teacher. She raised four children by herself until she lost her battle to cancer when I was six years old. After she passed, I moved to Philadelphia to live with a cousin who raised my brother and me as her sons. Growing up in a low-income household, we struggled at times, and public assistance like food stamps and the free lunch program helped us get by. Despite it all, this amazing woman who raised me provided the love we needed and made sure we got a great public education. That education led me to a public university, where I became student body president, to graduate with two master’s degrees that set me on the path to have a 20-year career as a social worker, and to work for 12 years in education, running after-school programs and teaching life skills, civics, and career training. Ultimately, I was inspired to serve on the Richmond City Council, the West Contra Costa Unified School District Board, and now in the California State Assembly.
In my life, education has been the great equalizer that allowed me to overcome humble beginnings. I want the same opportunities for all of California’s kids.
Read Tony’s plan: