6. What do you view as your greatest accomplishment?
I view my greatest accomplishment in life as raising my three children. I came to the United States in 2003 pregnant with my firstborn child. During the following couple of years my husband and I worked hard to raise our family moving from place to place and fighting to get some sense of stability. I’m very proud of who my children have become. They have grown up with two cultures and are all bilingual. They are why I am where I am today. I’m in politics to make things better for their generation.
This one is easy. My life’s work has been transforming my own town, from neglected, polluted, disrespected, poor, and almost hopeless to resilient, imaginative, inclusive, green, integrated, admired, fun, and proud. We changed virtually every policy, invented financing tools, created the social capacity for hope and for change, evolved our values, broke down doors and broadened tables, accessed every kind of external investment and grant, partnered with gusto, and never stopped innovating. We accomplished what had seemed utterly impossible.
Let me share one specific example: the West Sacramento Home Run. Inspired by voter adoption of the statewide tobacco tax and First Five initiative, the following year I launched a local effort to become the first small or medium-sized city in California to connect every child with high-quality preschool. We built what became a national model for city action. Later, I signed on as one of the first dozen pilot Cities of Learning, getting an LRNG grant to create digital badges for out-of-school learning. We used that to support our school district’s efforts to build Linked Learning pathways that prepare high school students for college and career, not one or the other (I was also national president of the Linked Learning Alliance—which helped!). Then, President Obama announced his proposal for America’s College Promise, which would make tuition-free higher education available to all. When the Republican Congress refused to consider the idea, he decided to take it to cities and states instead. He appointed me to the national College Promise board, charged with sparking a movement. Today, more than 500 cities and states have College Promise programs, including several in the 3rd Senate District. One of the first was in my own city. In 2016, building on our proven success with preschool, college and career pathways, and out-of-school learning/internships, and fired up by Obama’s College Promise, voters approved a tax measure I placed on the ballot that supports the West Sacramento Home Run. Now in full implementation, it includes preschool, college savings accounts for every entering kindergarten pupil, paid internships for high school students in college and career pathways, free community college, and scholarships based on community service. And in 2020, we broke new ground, partnering with the school district and community college district, to send a letter of college admission and a full tuition waiver to every graduating high school senior in the city.