Maria Contreras-Sweet, Board Director and Executive Chairwoman of Promerica Bank, speaks during the Rowland Unified School District Connections to the Future at Nogales High School in La Puente on Tuesday, Nov. 6. (Keith Durflinger / Staff)
Connections to the future.
They've led Maria Contreras-Sweet from the sleepy streets of Guadalajara to the busy boulevards of Los Angeles. From the backroom politics of Sacramento to boardroom politics of corporations and banks.
"I was the fifth child in a family of six. When my parents broke up, my mother announced that we were moving to America," the slim brunette recalled.
The 5-year-old didn't understand why they were moving from their comfortable home in Mexico to the strange streets of Southern California.
When her mother could only find work cutting chickens in a freezing poultry plant or cleaning homes, the youngster was even more distraught.
"Why are you working so hard?" the young immigrant
April Alcala of Nogales High School listens to Judy Greenlees during the Rowland Unified School District Connections to the Future at Nogales High School in La Puente on Tuesday Nov. 6. (Keith Durflinger / Staff)
would ask her mother.
"In America, you can be anything you want to be. I'm working so you can get a job in an office as a secretary," her mama explained.
And the little Mexican girl did grow up to become a secretary — the Secretary of the Business, Transportation and Housing department for the state of California.
This "secretary" oversaw a $14 billion budget and 42,000 employees, including the California Highway Patrol and the Department of Motor Vehicles.