“History Maker” Gloria Molina Politician
Watch our full interview with Molina here!
Molina grew up as one of ten children in the Los Angeles suburb of Pico Rivera, California, United States, to a Mexican-American father and Mexican mother. She attended public schools in her hometown and attended Rio Hondo College, East Los Angeles College and California State University, Los Angeles. While attending college, she worked full-time as a legal secretary. Then, she became certified as an adult education instructor and taught clerical skills at the East Los Angeles Skills Center.
She was first elected to office in 1982 as State Assemblywoman for the 56th District. In 1987, she was elected to the Los Angeles City Council where she served as the Councilwoman of the First District until 1991. In February 1991, she was elected to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, representing the First Supervisorial District. Molina is the first Latina in history to be elected to the California State Legislature, the Los Angeles City Council and the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, and to serve as an assemblywoman at the California State Assembly. During her 23 years serving the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, she became known as a fiscal watchdog committed to overseeing good government reforms, maintenance of the county’s public health care system and quality-of-life issues for the millions of county residents living in unincorporated areas. Prior to being elected to public office, Molina served in the Carter White House as a Deputy for Presidential Personnel. After leaving the White House, she served in San Francisco as a Deputy Director for the Department of Health and Human Services.
Molina’s early career was characterized by her involvement in the Chicano movement and advocating for women’s health. An early accomplishment of Molina’s was when she started a nurse mentoring program in an effort to address the country’s shortage of nurses by partnering with local community colleges to encourage and help more students to pursue a nursing degree.
One of Molina’s significant achievements was her involvement with the Mothers of East Los Angeles, a group formed to organize against a proposed plan to build a prison in East LA. As city councilwoman, she found the government unresponsive to her concerns of yet another proposal to build a prison near schools in the predominantly Chicano and Mexican neighborhood. In the mid-2000s she drove through skid row looking for families with children and would call the Department of Family and Children Services to help families and remove children from unsafe conditions.
In April 2006, Molina was honored as the “Hispanic Business Woman of the Year” by Hispanic Business magazine. In 2008, Molina piloted a program that became known as the Gloria Molina Foster Youth Education Program. This program attempted to improve the high school graduation rates of students in the foster care system. By committing social worker’s to aid in helping manage and track these student’s academic success the program was able to raise the graduation rate from the national average of 58% to 80%. When Molina retired from her supervisor position in 2014 because of term limits, she stated that one of her biggest regrets was that she was not able to do more to improve the high school graduation rates among fostered youth.
In 2014, Molina was awarded the honorary Doctor of Humane Letters (LHD) from Whittier College.