At this week’s LatinXellence assembly, senior co-heads of the Westridge Latinx affinity Simone O., Olivia Q., and Sonaya V.-W. led a Q&A session with Westridge alumna Vanessa Delgado ’95, a prominent California politician and housing advocate. The wide-ranging discussion started with Delgado’s experience in Pasadena independent schools (she attended a different middle school before arriving at Westridge) in the ’80s and ’90s when she was the first or one of few Latinx students. Though grateful for her education, which she says changed her life, Delgado also spoke of long-standing scars from being told she was different based on her looks and skin and from feeling the socioeconomic differential.
At Westridge, Delgado didn’t find a cultural community when she arrived. Still, she felt a great deal of kindness and mentioned the importance of having a Latinx faculty member, Juanita Jimenez, to turn to.
If you have seen the mural on Ranney Court featuring two Latinx girls, you have seen Delgado’s message to students. “We left our self-portraits so that other girls who were Latina would see themselves here,” she explained. Delgado went on to say they included both Mexican and American flags in the mural to recognize their two identities.
“I hope the Westridge community was reminded (by this assembly) of the beauty of diversity,” said Simone O. ’22. “Additionally, I hope they take away that although Westridge is a competitive independent school, it is filled with many different people from different households, ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds.”
Simone also hoped the interview gave people perspective on the Latinx experience and the adversity and beauty that comes with it.
The conversation continued into topics of Delgado’s college path and career. As a professional, Delgado has worked in economic development for a number of Southern California cities, and has served as mayor of Montebello and as state senator for California’s 32nd district. Currently she is president of Azure Development, a property development firm which strives to create transformational projects in collaboration with the communities they serve, and serves on the board of directors for South Coast Air Quality Management District.
Delgado and the student leaders exchanged stories about the unique familial pressures and pride of being first-generation college students. Delgado’s educational path was inspired by her mother, whose father believed girls should not be educated past 5th grade, the age at which families then had to pay for schooling in Mexico. She wanted something different for her daughter.
“When Latinx and Black students see individuals such as Vanessa Delgado, who look like us, in government and positions of influence, we feel loved, we feel that the world sees us for our greatness,” said Olivia Q. ’22. “I hope this event, as well as events like this in the future, will allow members of the Westridge community to continue to love and to be loved, so that, in the future, Brown and Black students can walk in their purpose with confidence, to see themselves as politicians, advocates, and community builders just like Vanessa Delgado.”
See photos of the LatinXellence assembly here.