East Los Angeles College helped former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa get his life back on track.

Expelled from two high schools and on a self-described downward spiral, Villaraigosa – at the urging of his mother and with the support of a sympathetic English teacher – returned to school, took extra classes in the evening to catch up, graduated on schedule and moved on to East Los Angeles College. There, Villaraigosa found his footing. His grades improved and he was able to transfer to UCLA.

Villaraigosa earned a bachelor’s degree in history and went on to attend the People’s College of Law, a night school dedicated to public-interest law. By the age of 25, Villaraigosa was elected president of a local union representing civil rights lawyers in six states. Over the next 15 years, he continued this work as an organizer for the Service Employees International Union and United Teachers Los Angeles and then as president of the Los Angeles chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union and the American Federation of Government Employees.

Villaraigosa was appointed to the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Board in 1990 and served until 1994, when he was elected to the California State Assembly. Four years later, his colleagues elected him the first Assembly Speaker from Los Angeles in a quarter century. He left the Assembly in 2000 after three two-year terms and was elected to the Los Angeles City Council in 2003. He served as the 41st mayor of Los Angeles from 2005 to 2013.

During his tenure as mayor, he gained national attention for his work and was featured in a Time magazine article on the country’s 25 most influential Latinos. The first Mexican-American mayor of Los Angeles is more than 130 years, Villaraigosa spearheaded policies to improve student outcomes in the Los Angeles Unified School District and is credited with enhancing public safety.

"Community college is a key part in what we need to do to give people the skills they need for good middle-class jobs," Villaraigosa said during a stop at Oxnard College during his 2018 campaign for governor.