tef_success_stories_Benjamin_Cardenas

The Honorable Benjamin Cardenas

Moving to East Los Angeles at the age of thirteen after a childhood spent in Michoacán, Mèxico, Ben found himself confronted by all the challenges that young immigrants face in the American educational system. Overcoming these obstacles, he not only graduated from Garfield High School as a high achieving student, but as a four-year TELACU Scholar, he went on to receive a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Philosophy from UCLA.

In 2000, Ben was selected as a TELACU/Washington, D.C. Intern and was assigned to the office of Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard. There, he began gaining invaluable expertise on wide-ranging issues—from housing, labor and transportation, to veteran’s affairs and immigration—that serves as the foundation for his holistic approach to community empowerment.

After graduation, Ben moved to Washington, D.C. so that he could participate as a Public Policy Fellow with the prestigious Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute. Shining as an innovative leader and problem solver, Ben was immediately hired by Congresswoman Grace F. Napolitano upon completion of his internship. He was quickly promoted from Deputy Director to District Director.

Looking back at his journey, Ben acknowledges that “the money TELACU gave me was great, but even more valuable were the monthly educational seminars and the moral support I received.” Realizing that his achievements would not have been possible without access to a quality education, he serves on the Montebello Unified School District Board of Education, representing the academic interests of over 60,000 K-12 and Adult-Education students.

Ben also co-founded the East Los Angeles Residents Association (ELARA). As President of ELARA, he took up the East L.A. Incorporation/Cityhood effort that TELACU had so fervently advocated for back in 1971. Although ultimately the goal was not achieved, this very successful grassroots effort brought together the community in new ways. Ben is also investing his leadership and advocacy abilities to serve on boards of numerous other community-based organizations.