Wave Staff Report
CULVER CITY — Paula Amezola de Herrera was installed as the first bilingual Latina elected to the Culver City school board Dec. 15.
Ameloza’s husband and children stood by her side as she took the oath of office, virtually from her home, against the backdrop of a pre-pandemic school board meeting. Kelly Kent also was sworn in to start her second term in office.
Amezola has dedicated 20 years of her professional life to public health, engaged in research, program evaluation, advocacy and career development. She centers her work around access and equity issues, specifically as they relate to underserved communities.
“I’m trying to find the balance between optimism, vigilance, and action as I transition into this role,” she said after thanking her supporters. “The pandemic has broken many systems and highlighted the fragile ones (mental health crisis, economic crisis, social unrest, health care crisis).
“Times of crisis can, if we approach them courageously and with creativity, be times of great opportunity because we are forced to change,” she added.
Amezola received a master’s degree in epidemiology from UCLA, where she was trained in survey development, program evaluation, data analysis, data mining and data reporting. She said that this training can be applied to any issue that requires telling a story with data. Currently, she is the founder of the Public Health Career Services at the USC Keck School of Medicine.
Prior to her work at the Keck School of Medicine, she served as partnership program coordinator for the National Cancer Institute, working closely with nonprofits on community asset mapping, coalition building and grant writing.
In 2017, Governor Jerry Brown appointed Amezola as a public member of the Board of Vocational Nurses and Psychiatric Technicians, a board responsible for overseeing the licenses and qualifications of more than 150,000 vocational nurses and psychiatric technicians.
Her commitment to protecting the youth of Culver City was first demonstrated when she served as a commissioner for Culver City’s Parks, Recreation and Community Services, a role she relinquished after being elected to school board. During her time on the commission, she organized two community conversations: “Everyone Deserves to Feel Safe” and “The Past, Present and Future of Housing in Culver City.” She is also a founding member of both the Culver City Action Network and Protect Culver City Renters.
Growing up, Amezola attended nine different schools, shuttling back and forth between the U.S. and Mexico (coincidentally in Uruapan, Michoacán, which is Culver City’s first sister city), nearly every year in response to financial pressures and strains her parents faced.
She lived in extreme poverty, lacked educational opportunities, and the English language also presented a barrier. Despite those obstacles, she made her way through the UC system.
Amezola and her husband have raised their two children in Culver City, both of whom have attended district schools.
Amezola replaces Anne Allaire, who served one term on the school board.