An Unconventional Path

By LolĂ­s Ramirez - TOLA Fall 2011

When I was four, I crossed the U.S./Mexican border and didn’t realize I was undocumented until I was sixteen when applying for a job. I was ashamed, angered, and upset, but rather than hide in the shadows, it fueled a fire in me to fight and do better.

My parents, a housekeeper and a gardener supported me through college. With a health nutrition major, my plan was to work in low-income communities teaching families about healthy choices. A series of unexpected circumstances led me to discover the world of organizing. What I found was that I could have more impact on improving people’s health by organizing communities, rather than by teaching people one by one.

I led the first successful soda tax campaigns in Berkeley, San Francisco, Oakland, and assisted in Albany. These measures will bring in over $20M per year for health education programs. The best part of these campaigns was working with TOLA fellows to recruit hundreds of volunteers and community members. Together we made history.