By: Paul Medina
In its seventy-six-years of operation East Los Angeles College has helped educate countless students. ELAC alumni have gone on to fill in the ranks of many jobs, careers and posts. While ELAC takes pride in serving as an institution that prepares leaders for local leadership, it has been responsible for educating many people who have gone on to make major changes both locally and nationwide.
East Los Angeles is recognized as a Hispanic serving institute. ELAC has a great number of students with a hispanic background, who have made notable changes in America’s social fabric.
ELAC graduates have gone on to fill top ranks of Hispanic Heritage figures in notable roles in the fields of politics, business and academia among others.
Among the many notable Hispanic alumni to set foot at ELAC is Julian Nava, an East Los Angeles Native and graduate from Roosevelt High school. Nava had the distinction of serving as the first Mexican American U.S. Ambassador to Mexico and first Mexican American elected to the Los Angeles Unified School District Board. Nava would go on to become one of the first Mexican Americans to graduate from Harvard University.
More recently other distinguished alumni have become trailblazers. Rosario Marin was thrusted into the spotlight in 2001 when President George W. Bush appointed her to the post of Treasurer of the United States. A cabinet position that Marin held for two years.
Boyle Heights resident Antonio Villaraigosa, already having made history for being elected as Assembly speaker in 1998, wenton to be elected Mayor of Los Angeles in 2005 and became the first Hispanic mayor since 1872. Villaraigoisa transferred from ELAC to UCLA and received his History degree. In 2018 he became a California gubernatorial candidate where he placed third.
Another notable Alumni is, Art Torres who serves as the current Vice Chair of the Governing Board of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine. His prior roles include serving as the longest chair in history for the California Democratic Party with thirteen years. Torres also served as an Assembly member State senator and is currently a University of California Board of Regent member.
According to an ELAC website profile, Torres was grateful for his teachers at ELAC and is quoted as saying “My favorite memory of ELAC are the teachers, especially Dr. Helen Miller Bailey who really mentored my interests and the Dean of Students Evelyn Field, who was my mentor to UC Santa Cruz.”
ELAC has been a stepping stone to those who have made changes in the private sector, Hollywood and non-profit world.
Univision, a major Spanish language television network, was co-founded by ELAC alumnus Frank Cruz. “East Los Angeles College gave me the foundation without which I would not have succeeded,” said Cruz in the website of the California Community Colleges.
Edward James Olmos, a famous Latino in Hollywood movies such as Selena, American Me and Stand and Deliver also attended ELAC. Olmos took acting classes before transferring to California State University Los Angeles, his website states.
Antonia Hernandez, President and Chief Executive Officer of the California Community Foundation began her college studies at East Los Angeles College before transferring to UCLA where she received her Bachelor’s Degree in 1970. And earned a Law Degree in 1974.Hernandez would go on to become President and General Counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) in 1985.