By Isabelly Sabô Barbosa, Staff Writer
May 12, 2023
The newest addition to the Board of Trustees at Peralta Community College District (PCCD) holds their passion for community organizing close to home. Whenever they’re advocating for Latinos, workers, or people with disabilities, Trustee Paulina Gonzalez-Brito (they/them/elle) keeps their family in mind.
Gonzalez-Brito was born to two Mexican immigrant parents, who came to the United States hoping for a better life. They anchored their new life in Montebello, California, where they had Gonzalez-Brito and their sister. Growing up, their father worked at a garment shop.
“Like many immigrants, he wanted to better his life and the life of his family,” Gonzalez-Brito said.
Meanwhile, Gonzalez-Brito’s mother stayed at home to take care of them and their sister. Gonzalez-Brito remembered their sister, who passed away last year, with love. She had physical disabilities, and inspired Gonzalez-Brito to become an advocate for other people with disabilities – including their own son, who is on the autism spectrum and attends Peralta.
Gonzalez-Brito also advocates for workers’ rights, especially for Latino communities. Their father was fired from his job after a failed attempt to organize a union to improve working conditions, an incident that stuck with Gonzalez-Brito.
“I was pretty young when that happened and I wanted to figure out how I could stop that from happening to somebody else, because it was so unfair,” Gonzalez-Brito explained.
Afterwards, their mom decided to return to school, and their father stayed at home to care for Gonzalez-Brito’s sister. Gonzalez-Brito went on to attend a community college, but struggled to fit in with the environment. The college was located in a wealthier area, and didn’t have many other Latino or immigrant students.
Gonzalez-Brito dropped out after only a year and began working for United Farm Workers, where they learned how unions work. It was during this time that Gonzalez-Brito gave birth to their daughter.
Gonzalez-Brito’s parents pushed for them to go back to school, even with the challenges of studying and raising a baby at the same time. Inspired by their mother’s own decision to go back to school, Gonzalez-Brito enrolled at The University of California, Los Angeles, and graduated with a degree in Sociology.
Since then, Gonzalez-Brito has spent decades learning a lot more about community organizing, always with the intention of advocating for causes that impact people in sensitive positions. In addition to their years of experience working with unions, they currently serve as the CEO of the California Reinvestment Coalition, a nonprofit organization that supports low-income communities “by holding banks and corporations accountable.”
Gonzalez-Brito believes that they can apply their experience to their work at PCCD. Gonzalez-Brito said that through their work, they have learned how important it is to have representation on boards to speak for students from different communities, such as disabled, Latino, Black, or LGBTQIA+ communities. One of the things that they like about PCCD is the shared governance.
“You have students, you have faculty, you have classified staff all giving input into different policies […] I think it’s about uplifting those voices.”
As a trustee, Gonzalez-Brito wants to focus on what matters for students and work on some of the district’s biggest issues, such as facilities, low enrollment, lack of staff, and class cancellations. Additionally, Gonzalez-Brito wants to address how the district can make better use of available funds.
When asked about what inspires them the most, Gonzalez-Brito acknowledged their parents and their kids.
“Just like my dad wanted for me, I want [my kids] to have a better life,” Gonzalez-Brito said. “I want to make the world a better place for them, by creating a stronger community college for students like my son and people like him.”