Sonia Lopez is on the Compton Community College District (CCCD) Board of Trustees and a legislative staff member for California State Senator Holly Mitchell of the 30th District. She previously worked as an office manager for Mitchell when she represented the 54th Assembly District in Los Angeles. Lopez earned a bachelor’s degree in Chicano studies/political science from the University of California, Riverside.
What are some of the specific challenges facing the CCCD today?
I’ve been on the board for the past two years and the community is still concerned that we’re not yet fully accredited. We’ve submitted our application but it’s a slow process. [The state took control of CCCD in 2004 as a result of fiscal mismanagement, which led to the loss of its accreditation. An agreement with El Camino College, a partner district, was formed to provide accredited coursework to Compton Community College students.] Having said that, one of the important challenges we share [with other community colleges] is creating partnerships that provide better access for our students. A lot of students across California go to community colleges and end up having to take remedial classes [because their high school courses didn’t meet the prerequisites required for college]. To help avoid that, we’ve partnered some of our Unified School Districts with the college district so students can take accredited, high school classes that are transferable to a college or university.
What are the most effective ways you use to connect with your community?
I live in a city [South Gate] that’s represented by three different community colleges, so I want to make sure my community knows about their local resources. I represent Seat 3, which includes half of the city of Lynwood and portions of Paramount, South Gate and Downey. I’ve been bridging the gap between those school boards and city council members by bringing them to the campus and having them see the resources that are available to both students and adults looking to go back to school.
Did you have a mentor and exactly what did they offer you?
Aside from my parents, I’d have to say Dolores Huerta was my mentor. Of course, she doesn’t know that she was a mentor but she was certainly a role model. The fact that she balanced advocacy work with her family life made a huge impression on me when I was younger. It seemed like she was everywhere. Today, I regard Senator Mitchell as a mentor. She encourages me to be great staffer, a great trustee and she’s someone I look up to. They both remind me to remember where I’m from and remember my campaign platform when I was running for office.
What does being a Latina policymaker mean to you?
It means I have a voice for my community and for the students here. I get to advocate on their behalf.
What was the most memorable day of your life?
This is a tied event. [Winning] my first election and being sworn into office by Senator Mitchell.
If you had to be on a television show, would you choose Survivor, Dancing With The Stars or The Voice?
The Voice! In my utopian world I have an Adele-like voice and I would be [on] Team Adam.
If you had a pair of front row seats, who would you be going to see and why?
Selena. I love her music and was never able to see her in concert when she was alive. An artist who died at too young of an age.
In your ideal world, whom do you think should be President of The United States?
In my ideal world, a progressive woman with a firm commitment to immigration reform and eliminating poverty.
Interviewed by Bill Britt