We had the good fortune of connecting with Dr. Beatriz “Betty” Valencia and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Dr. Beatriz “Betty”, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
As women, we are often told not to take risks- a role often afforded to men. These gender roles are pervasive in our society. Often opportunities are missed for fear of taking a risk. I think of risk-taking as part of life. As we develop, we are faced with decisions at all levels. Some of the decisions we make are easier than others. When difficult decisions need to be made, risk-taking helps propel us to do more than we think we can.

When I decided to run for office in a historically conservative city, It took significant risks. I became used to the “look” of city council members, and none looked like me, reflecting my identities or experiences. It became apparent that I had to step up. With no political experience, I took the risk of being a newcomer candidate. At every turn, strategic decisions were made weighing the risks. Our team understood that without risk, the status quo would rarely be shaken.

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
From a young age, I dedicated all my spare time to volunteer work. I felt volunteer work helped develop both my understanding of our society and my place in this world. I come from a large family, and while we lacked many resources and luxuries, we never idled. In high school, and as an outsider, it became more difficult  to stay academically motivated. While I often wanted to give up, I knew that education was the key to my story. I never lost my servant’s heart, and it was the main reason I continued to work, study, and volunteer.

While I did not graduate from highschool, I did take classes in my local community college. I overcame the challenges of paying for college and later university tuition. I worked part-time and attended school full-time, or I worked full-time and attended school part-time. This was the type of schedule I carried for years. In 2004, after finishing my Master’s, I thought I had reached my goals. I started to work in business and applied the many skills I learned. I was content, obtained promotions, recognitions, and many benefits, yet I felt incomplete. In the last several years, I became active in local politics. While electoral politics were new to me, being political was not. I grew up noticing the imbalances in our society/communities. I questioned many things growing up, but it wasn’t until I dedicated more time to politics that I realized the many complexities. I was also able to finally name the system wide racism that continues to be pervasive in our institutions.

In 2016 I started my Ph.D. program at Chapman Univerity, entered politics as the first openly queer immigrant woman running for city council, and continued to work full time. By 2020, I was instrumental in the historical changes in the city. I was named one of Orange County’s top 100 influencers and connected with others in intersectional movements. I have earned my Ph.D. in Educational Leadership and continue to work full time. The rest of my free time is dedicated to working toward equal rights, climate justice, education, immigration, and maintaining an active pulse in Orange County, CA. politics. What sets me apart is really my experience. While many others leaders and trailblazers have encountered many of the same challenges, we each carry a unique experience.

Each time I faced a challenge, or an obstacle, I leaned into what I knew best…hard work, commitment, and community. These are the pillars of my success and continued focus.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
In the city of Orange, there are many exciting places. I believe in knowing the history of places. The Orange Circle is always a pleasant visit, but the following areas deserve priority:

I would guide my friend to Chapman University Memorial Hall, where Martin Luther King spoke on December 10, 1961. Shortly after this visit (5 days), Dr. King was arrested along with hundreds of protestors in Georgia.

In that exact location, I would like to share that on April 14th, 2018, I met Angela Davis after she spoke about true intersectionality and historical memory. I would proudly share that same year, I presented Dolores Huerta with the Presidential Medal for her work in furthering equity and justice while wearing a Valencia4Orange pin on Oct 22, 2018, and note that she was the first person to endorse our campaign.

I would then move to the many historical places around the circle. One often overlooked/forgotten/ignored history is the civil rights abuses and the struggles to end the harmful segregation practices of Mexican School children that took place in Orange. Killefer School, for example, voluntary desegregation in the 1940s, and Cypress School was the LAST public school to close in 1944, three years AFTER the landmark decision Mendez et al. v. Westminster School District of Orange County et al. The history does not vanish. Pople do not forget, and the stories matter.

I would then navigate to El Molino de Oro for great Mexican food and buy fresh-made tortillas. I would visit Darya for delicious fine Persian food. Finally, for a bit of heaven- Luky’s Thai Pantry.  While there are many places to see and restaurants to visit, this itinerary would focus on the diversity and gifts often unappreciated in our city. I would recommend visitors to return and unpack how our history is reflected in our cities. I would end with a viewing of Dolores ( Documentary) and hope that the visit was enriching, motivating, and uplifting.

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I would like to dedicate this Shoutout to all the humans who helped me along the way, especially my mother, Laura Villa, and the supporters/allies/co-conspirators who have walked beside me during these challenging times. To those that helped mentor and guide me from high school to my Ph.D. To all those who saw value in my story and the ability to contribute. Thank you for speaking with me and sharing our history.

Website: https://www.votebettyvalencia.com

Instagram: valencia4orange instagram.com/valencia4orange

Twitter: @Valencia4Orange https://twitter.com/Valencia4Orange

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/valenciaforOrange

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tMJiBtf8U4E&t=7s

Image Credits
Matt Fitt Photo

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