Meet Paula

Mensaje de Paula en Español   

I am running for the Culver City Unified School District’s (CCUSD) Governing Board to ensure all students receive an equitable education, to advocate for the funding needed to keep our schools safe during a crisis, and to fight for all students, especially our most vulnerable. 

When I was growing up, I attended nine different schools, shuttling back and forth between the US and Mexico nearly every year in response to the financial pressures and strains my parents faced. I lived in extreme poverty, lacked educational opportunities, and the English language was a barrier. Despite these obstacles, I made my way through the UC system receiving a B.S. in Genetics from UC Davis and a M.P.H. in Epidemiology from UCLA. Along the way, I learned the importance of an equitable education that nurtures and supports the success of all students. 

During this unprecedented time, our schools are in crisis. For decades, our school systems have been under-funded. This has led to deteriorated school buildings, low paying wages for teachers, and poor educational outcomes. We can not go backwards. Our schools need funding for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), they need nurses, they need sanitized facilities and they need to be prepared to address and support students, teachers, staff, and parents through this pandemic. I will be a fierce advocate at the local, state, and federal level to advocate, secure, and fund all our districts’ needs to help our schools survive this crisis. The time is NOW to demand well-funded schools. 

The pandemic has hit our district’s most vulnerable families the hardest. Now more than ever, We  need board members who can speak up for those  who  have lost jobs, health care, daycare and/or are struggling to keep their families housed and fed. I am committed to being an advocate for such families as they focus on their daily struggles.

It is time for us to roll up our sleeves and collaborate so every child has equal opportunities in a nurturing environment. I ask for your trust, support, and votes. Together we can build a community of learning for all, where our budget is a reflection of our values.  

Yours truly,

Paula Amezola De Herrera

My Story

My Story | Mi Historia en Español  

I have seen first hand all the great work this district is doing for so many students. My children have been through this school district, from the Office of Child Development through High School.  My son has graduated and my daughter is a Junior at the High School.  One of my nephews attends La Ballona Elementary School and the other attends Culver City High School. Despite their success, I can also see where I can help the school district reimagine itself as an institution that nurtures all children rather than only some. For example, in 2019 the California Accountability System reported that current English Learners (EL) in the Culver City School District score 69.3 out of 200 points below standard English Only and only 25% of EL graduates are prepared for college. We need to do better for these students.

I am a first-generation Latina, who grew up as a migrant student.  I lived in poverty most of my young life and lacked educated role models. While growing up in the Central Valley, my siblings and I were tracked into the Migrant Education Program because my parents moved every year for work. Because we did not speak the English language “perfectly”,  we were placed in English as a Second Language (ESL) classes, which were beneath our intellectual abilities.

This system was designed to limit my success. I was “tracked” into the migrant student classes from elementary school until high school, when my parents had to demand access to college preparatory classes. My high school counselor discouraged me from taking STEM honors classes or applying to the UC system.  I was constantly reminded that “college was too expensive for me.”  Mr Sanchez, who directed the Immigrant program at my high school, was a notable exception. This wonderful teacher recognized my ability and challenged me to realize my potential.  Mr. Sanchez encouraged me to apply to the University of California, helped me get college application fee waivers, and reviewed my college personal statements. Without his support, I would not have made it to UC Davis and later, UCLA.

Latinx History | Historia Latinx en Español 

I cannot ignore or erase our country’s long racial history, let alone the long history of segregation in the State of California, and more specifically, Orange County, where I was born. 

I honor the parents of Sylvia Mendez who stood up to the Santa Ana School District and sued them in the mid 1940s to ensure that their kids would be allowed into the “white schools.” The Mendez family won the landmark Orange County case, Mendez, et al vs. Westminster School District of Orange County, et al, which laid the groundwork for school desegregation throughout California.  

At that time, California laws allowed school districts to create separate schools for Asian and Native American students. Considering those precedents, local school boards decided to create separate schools for Mexican children –including those who were born in the United States– -because it was assumed that Latino students didn’t speak English well enough to be integrated into mainstream schools. Worse, educators decided that Mexican American students’ had little academic potential, and were better suited to manual labor. Students were let out of class at 12:30 p.m. to work in the orchards picking citrus and walnuts. 

The Mendez lawsuit argued that the Latino students were being “denied the benefits and education” furnished to other children in schools with college preparatory classes. On Feb. 18, 1946, Federal Judge Paul McCormick of Los Angeles ruled that “A paramount requisite in the American system of public education is social equality. It must be open to all children by a unified school association regardless of lineage.” 

It is no secret that 8 years later, this case laid the foundation for the landmark Supreme Court decision of Brown v. Board of Education. Less than 100 years ago my right and the right of my children to a fair education would have been denied. However, just 25 years ago, I still had to fight my way out of a school system hell-bent on keeping me submerged in a river of illiteracy. This is the history and passion I bring to the table: I am a fighter!

My Record of  Leadership | Mi expediente de liderazgo en Español 

I have invested nearly 18 years in the field of public health working in research, program evaluation, advocacy and career development. In my work in each of these areas, I have focused on access and equity issues, specifically as it relates to underserved communities. My life philosophy is to always go beyond my self-interests, find commonalities inherent in humanity, and be my best self. 

Career in Epidemiology | Carrera de Epidemiología en Español 

I received a Masters of Public Health in Epidemiology at the University of California Los Angeles, where I was trained in survey development, program evaluation, data analysis, data mining, and data reporting. I believe that this training can be applied to any issue that requires telling a story with data. 

As the Partnership Program Coordinator for the National Cancer Institute (NCI), I worked closely with non-profits on community asset mapping, coalition building, and grant writing. During this time at the NCI, I established more than 200 professional relationships and led the development of tracking tools, database infrastructure and evaluation plans for 8 projects with partnering organizations and key stakeholders.

Additionally, I was the lead epidemiologist at the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center (LAGLC), a sentinel surveillance site for the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.   Most notably, I presented the center’s data at the National HIV Prevention Conference, where the CDC recognized the study on Crystal Meth Use Among HIV Positive Clients and had a press release in major newspapers including the LA Times. 

State Board | Committee del Estado en Español 

I’m part of the Education Committee for the Board of Vocational Nurses and Psychiatric Technicians (public member). I was appointed to this board by Governor Brown in 2017, where we ensure that qualified licensed vocational nurses and psychiatric technicians enter the workforce. We oversee and discipline the license for over +150,000 vocational nurses and psychiatric technicians; enforce education standards and requirements for all nursing schools in the state of California; set and influence policy to ensure the BVNPT is not impacted by pending state legislation; conceptualize the substance abuse awareness program that will leverage resources from the BVNPT, VN & PT schools and professional associations, reshape and set new goals for the BVNPT’s 5-year strategic plan, which included Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion initiatives.

Chair of Commission | Committee de Culver City en Español 

During my time as a commissioner for the Parks, Recreation, and Community Services (PRCS) I have been committed to protecting the youth of Culver City. My first project was the community conversation “Everyone Deserves to Feel Safe”; a talk by teen peer educators on sexual violence, exploring how to end the cycle that enables this unacceptable behavior, and how to advocate for a consent culture. We then held the community conversation “The Past, Present and Future of Housing in Culver City”, where we discussed the displacement of families in Culver City because of unaffordable housing. And this year, during our budget negotiations, I was able to advocate to the city council to not only restore $50,000 that had been cut from the budget but to fund an additional $100,000 for social work and mental health services for PRCS. 

Career Advisor | Consejera de Carreras en Español

My current work is at the USC Keck School of Medicine. As the founder of the Public Health Career Services, I have planned and implemented every aspect of the program, while working seamlessly with all academic programs.  The key to the success of the Public Health Career Services is my curiosity to evaluate the program and to actively listen to the students, faculty, and the leadership during the development and maintenance phase of the program.  

I’m excited to coach public health professionals and help them explore, discover, and navigate their public health careers.

Meet my family

Letter from Will Herrera (Husband)

I have dedicated my 21 year professional career to education and during that time, the number one factor I have seen impact educational outcomes has been Assertive, Engaged, and Informed Advocates.  Advocates, who aren’t afraid to use data to speak the truth, are the catalyst for improvement and change.  I can attest that my wife is all of the above!  

Paula is a healthcare scientist (aka epidemiologist) by training. She is trained to use data to analyze problems and use data to find solutions.  Just like science and data don’t lie, my wife has always used data to tell a story and consequently fight to institute solutions.  Despite her amazing climb up the social economic ladder, she has never forgotten her roots and the community she came from.  Along every step of that ladder, she has been committed to represent the interest of the poor, uneducated, and underserved.  

My wife understands this community! My wife will advocate and fight for our schools!  Vote for her if you are interested in having ALL CCUSD students and parents represented on the school board.  

With utmost respect,

William Herrera (Educator, Husband, CCUSD Parent)