Alum and ‘mother on a mission’ runs for office
Inspired by classes, OCL student Elvia Espino ran for mayor
By Ross Brenneman
As the mother of a child with autism, and as a first-generation college graduate, Elvia Espino OCL ’18 has lived much of her life fighting for a cause.
Espino looked around her new home in Irving, Texas last year, and decided to run for mayor to fight for another cause: Inclusion.
“From my graduate studies and my Rossier diversity classes I knew that the lack of diversity in our city leadership could inhibit access to the people that needed it the most,” Espino says. “Irving is said to be home to the most diverse ZIP code in the country—75038—yet we have a non-inclusive city council and school board.”
Irving may indeed be the most diverse city in the United States, or at least one of them: Just under a quarter of the population is white, 11 percent is black, 20 percent Asian and 40 percent is Hispanic. Espino says that few (if any) other Latina women have run for mayor of Irving, at least not recently.
“Based on all of the hate, racism, sexism and immigration issues taking place on the national level, I felt the need to act not for me but for my community,” she says. “I struggled with the idea for many weeks, but the idea was keeping me up at night. It’s as if I was answering a call greater than myself.”
Espino pursued a graduate degree in the first place because of her interest in inclusion.
“I wanted to learn more about the disparities within education and understand things that I experienced having grown up in an underserved community,” Espino said, adding that she wants to take what she’s learned and apply it to the corporate setting where she currently works, as a member of the public relations industry.
While Espino ultimately fell short in her campaign, she says she wouldn’t change her overall experience, and may even consider running for something else.
“I set out to make a change,” she says. “My campaign was about bridging a divide that the current elected officials said didn’t exist. It was about speaking for people who had otherwise been forgotten.”