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Gloria Molina: A Pioneer in Los Angeles Politics

Published by Aubrey Hicks on

by Justine Dodgen

Described by Los Angeles Times writer Patt Morrison as “the famous feminist politician from East L.A., the career policymaker/politician who still feels like an outsider,” Gloria Molina holds many firsts in the Los Angeles political world.

Molina was the first Latina elected to the California State Assembly, L.A. City Council, and the L.A. County Board of Supervisors; at the County she was also the first woman Supervisor. Her time as Supervisor spanned 23 years, and is the position for which she is perhaps the most well-known.

Gloria MolinaOn September 22, the Bedrosian Center will host Gloria Molina for the first Lunch with a Leader of the season. Lunch with a Leader is an opportunity for students to meet with leaders in public service for lunch and casual conversation, and one of our most popular event series- so popular that a former doctorate student is recreating it at her new school!

“Lunch with a Leader is the perfect complement to the classroom- it inspires Price students to pursue careers in public service and to become more active and engaged in the governance process at all levels. It’s such a great program that I am attempting to recreate something similar here at University of Miami! I only hope I am half as successful as you have been.” – Jennifer Connolly, Ph.D. ’14, Assistant Professor, University of Miami

Molina will also join the Bedrosian Center on September 29 for a performance and post-show discussion of Real Women Have Curves, an award-winning play that explores themes of gender, immigration, pay equity, and community. Policy at the Playhouse, our newest program series, creates opportunities for students to experience governance issues in diverse spaces and as voiced by different communities.

Molina frequently recognizes her upbringing as the child of immigrants and the oldest of ten siblings as one of the greatest influence on her life. Education, health, and the Latino communities in Los Angeles have been central themes of her political work.

After attending East Los Angeles and Rio Hondo Colleges, Molina became involved in the Chicano movement and was an advocate for women’s health. One of her early accomplishments was starting the Nurse Mentoring Program, a partnership between local community colleges to help more people become nurses to address the county’s nursing shortage. During her time in the CA Assembly (1982-1986), she became well known for her staunch dedication to preventing a new prison from opening in East L.A., even when it meant giving up a package of education bills that she had hoped to pass.

During her time as County Supervisor, Molina was recognized for her efforts to help develop parkland in the inner cities (L.A. River Center, El Bosque de Rio Hondo), assisting the county in obtaining a $1 billion federal commitment for the county’s public health system, and leading efforts to help reduce county employee costs including medical malpractice liability, eliminating numerous perks and bonuses, and cutting transportation allowances.

In 2014, Molina noted that one of her “regrets” was her inability to do more for the high school graduation rate while in office. She focused many of her later years as Supervisor on helping foster youth finish high school. In 2008, she piloted a program in her district known as the Gloria Molina Foster Youth Education Program, which aimed to improve the high school graduation rate for foster youth by dedicating social workers to help track and manage these youth’s academic success. The program helped increase the graduation rate for foster youth in the program to 80% (the national average was 58% in 2009), and later expanded to other school districts in L.A. County.

Molina retired from her Supervisor position in 2014 due to term limits, marking the end (though perhaps only for the time being) of a pioneering career in public service.

Join us for these exciting events with Gloria Molina! For more information about how to RSVP for these events, please contact Donnajean Ward at [email protected].

Bedrosian Center