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Photos and Article by Tammye McDuff
California State Senate candidate Irella Perez has a lot on her plate this year, as she ramps up her campaign that is now less than six months away. Hews Media Group was invited into the home of Senate hopeful Irella Perez this past December to learn more about her, why she is running for office, her passions, and the importance of civic engagement. Perez and her four children live in a quaint home in Whittier.
Perez is an elementary school Principal; acts as the City’s Culture and Arts Commissioner; a professor and school trustee for the Whittier Unified School District. Perez ardently believes “In the American dream and I believe America can have the best schools in the world once again. But that’s going to take less politics and more attention to people.” Perez is running for the State Senate, focusing on the restructuring of basic values and performance in the public and private school systems.
Hews Media Group [HMG]: Tell me who Irella Perez is?
Irella Perez [IP]: I was born in Nicaragua, and came to America when I was 15. I did not speak a word of the English language. My parents came to America because we wanted to change the course of our lives. We were living in danger, the family was split due to military involvement and for survival reasons and in order to keep the family together, we made the move to this country. I am the youngest of four children. My sister is in the medical field; I have one brother who is a Principal and another brother who is an algebra teacher. I see myself as caretaker of people. My mission is to transform the life of Californians through better education.
HMG: Not knowing the language, how did you learn? What schools did you attend?
IP: When we first arrived I went to Chatsworth High School in Los Angeles. After graduation I enrolled in Pasadena City College, then transferred to Cal State Long Beach for my MBA, later going on to USC for my doctorate in early childhood education.
HMG: How do you see yourself transforming the life of Californians?
IP: Through education. This will increase the middle class. It can expand the mind and create new inventors.
HMG: What made you decide to move from education into the political field?
IP: I believe in the power of education. I honestly believe this can change many things. We spend far more money on prisons, while we double the price of a college education. As a Principal I strive to create a safe environment, making sure our budget invests in the children and in parent’s education as well. We need to develop young minds in mathematics and science. If my ideas can improve the schools district locally, then we can do the same in Sacramento. I believe in investing in the human potential.
HMG: In light of so much money being cut all across the board in school districts state wide, how will you restructure the budget for these programs?
IP: It all comes down to priorities. We need to understand that by investing in people we can lower mental health issues and reduce crime. I am not ready to reveal the course of my agenda at the moment; however I will disclose the course of my campaign this month and I think people will be able to focus and support these ideas, It impacts all families, regardless of their level of education; income or political party they align with.
HMG: Are you running as a Republican or Democrat?
IP: I am a Democrat. I am going to listen to the people, they make the candidate. I want to hear from labor groups, from city councils and from the everyday man and woman. I want to represent all people as best as I can. I am just a regular Mom trying to make things better for my family and those families that I represent. I am a Latina-Chinese American woman.
HMG: Being of a crossed heritage and from another country, where do you stand on immigration?
IP: I think it is a very complicated issue. There needs to be much discussion on the topic. I can’t say that all undocumented immigrants should leave, because if I say that, what happens to their children who were born here in the States? This merits discussion. I can’t tell you that I believe we should give them free health care and welfare when we can’t take care of those who were born here. I don’t necessarily want to spend my tax dollars in a haphazard way. When we make decisions for California, it should be in the best interest of all the people.
HMG: What are your top issues that you will be focusing on in your campaign?
IP: As I stated, my mission is to help to transform the lives of Californians through education. Some would say I am running a one issue campaign, and I’m okay with that. I believe in the power of education. It transformed the life of a poor girl from Nicaragua. My life and my expertise and my passion have led me to this point. Next would be the safety of the people. I think we need to deal with national security, with gun control and reducing crime as a major issue. And of course, job security. We need to give the big companies more incentive to stay here in California as opposed to moving out of state to avoid high taxes.
HMG: How will you manage being a single Mother, a job, the multiple boards and projects you chair and now running for Senate?
IP: Never underestimate the power of a woman! When I see a good opportunity, I go for it. When I move up, I want to move people forward with me. I am highly energetic. My children are my priority and I want to put my best foot forward for them, to be a role model for them.
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