Ricardo Lara was a first generation college student with a passion for journalism.
When he began his college experience at San Diego State University, he was immediately drawn to student government. After becoming involved with MECHA (Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan) and Rotaract, Lara was voted the representative of the Professional Studies and Fine Arts Council.
His leadership roles with various clubs and organizations prepared him for his eventual role of Vice President of Associated Students at SDSU, an experience that set the tone for his professional life after college.
Now Lara, '99, is a state senator from the 33rd district, representing the areas of Long Beach, Signal Hill and other areas of Los Angeles.
"I fell in love with public service during my time at SDSU," Lara said. "The level of sophistication in SDSU's Associated Students is one that is very unique, and I loved serving the students."
Lara credits his success in public service to his experience at SDSU.
"SDSU prepared me to be a better legislator, a better person overall, and it gave me the opportunity to find who I was," Lara said. "As a first generation college student, I'm so passionate about policymaking for higher education because I understand the value of higher education, and SDSU opened the doors for me."
A champion of change
Lara said that one of his favorite aspects of life as a Senator is being able to inspire people to pursue public service regardless of sexual orientation or sexual identity.
For this passion, Lara was recently honored by the White House as a Harvey Milk Champion of Change.
The award, established in 2011, acknowledges politicians who contribute to their community, country and fellow citizens. President Obama presented Lara with the award at a ceremony held at the White House in May.
Lara was one of 10 openly gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender state and local elected and appointed officials to receive the prestigious award.
"I feel very honored and very blessed to receive this award," Lara said. "It's wonderful to serve as a role model for so many other folks who are struggling with their identity and struggling to find their place in society."
More about Lara
Lara, who earned his Bachelor's degree in journalism and Spanish with a minor in Chicano studies, is currently pursuing his Master's degree in leadership from the University of Southern California.
He is also a member of the LGBT Caucus and is the first openly gay person of color in the State Senate. In addition, he is a member of the Assembly Select Committee on California Mexico Binational Affairs, the California Border Legislative Conference, Assembly Select Committee on Foster Care and the Select Committee on Post-Secondary Access and Matriculation.
Read more SDSU Stories of Leadership.