Alex De Ocampo: From poverty to a bid for California State Assembly seat
WATCH: Alex De Ocampo tells how his parents inspired him to work hard, follow his dreams and eventually overcome poverty. INQUIRER/Eric Licas
LOS ANGELES — Most young Angelenos spend their summers seeking shade from the oppressive heat of sunbaked Southern California. The blistering climate makes cold snacks a valuable commodity.
So, when Rosa, the ice cream truck lady, who drove through Bellevue Park during Alex De Ocampo’s childhood offered him three weeks’ worth of free frozen treats, the first-generation Fil-Am couldn’t pass on the deal. All Rosa asked in return was that young Alex stay away from a certain group of kids causing trouble in the neighborhood.
“I thought to myself, ‘free ice cream? I’ll take it!’” said the aspiring state legislator while recalling his roots in California’s 51st Assembly District with the INQUIRER.net on Saturday, June 24.
A path out of poverty
De Ocampo made good on his end of the bargain even after the popsicles ran out. Despite growing up in poverty and the traumatic loss of his father to cancer when De Ocampo was nine, he resisted the lure of gangs and the ill-gotten profits they tempted him with. Instead of breaking into cars and houses or dealing drugs, the product of the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) went door to door selling cookies in order to pay for a pair of glasses.
His parents, Pedro and Encarnacion, reinforced Rosa’s message and the notion that hard work would pay off to the point that “they sounded like a broken record,” said De Ocampo. “I get it Nanay, I get it Tatay,” he might have said with a roll of his eyes when he was younger.
However, driven by the example set by his parents, as well as other generous and hardworking people in his community, the LA native committed himself to his studies and made the most of the resources made available by state and federal institutions.
Career in entertainment
After high school, De Ocampo landed a scholarship to Cal State Northridge. While attending college, he began pursuing a career in the entertainment industry. After earning his degree in 2002, he started working as an assistant for philanthropist and media executive Haim Saban.
De Ocampo currently manages the Saban Family Foundation (SFF), overseeing the distribution of hundreds of millions of dollars of charitable funds worldwide. De Ocampo also serves as a board member on the California Film Commission (CFM) and the California State Summer School Arts Foundation (CSSSAF).
His experience in directing resources for large philanthropic projects won him the support of California Board of Equalization member Fiona Ma.
“He possesses the skills and judgment needed to be an effective Assemblymember,” wrote Ma in a letter of endorsement for his campaign published on Thursday, June 15.
Southern California Congressman Brad Sherman also endorsed De Ocampo Tuesday, June 27. Sherman is the first member of Congress to draft and circulate articles of impeachment against Donald Trump.
“The opportunity for hardworking families to safely and securely access education and quality health care are under attack by the Trump Administration’s policies. California needs leaders who understand the challenges these families face. Alex De Ocampo knows these struggles from his own family’s experience as immigrants trying to make a new life in Los Angeles. I’m supporting Alex De Ocampo for Assembly because he will stand up for all families in California,” stated Sherman.
Personal links to progressive values
Candidates making a bid to represent the 51st district expect a crowded field of Democrats to compete in a special election to replace the State Assembly seat vacated by current House Representative Jimmy Gomez. Although a number of candidates have billed themselves as progressives, De Ocampo said that his experiences overcoming poverty have made workers’ rights, affordable childcare and housing, community displacement in the face of urban development and a host of other issues personal to him.
When De Ocampo’s father fell ill, he was driven to seek more affordable treatment in the Philippines because their family could not afford it in the United States. As a result, he died away from his family living Stateside.
Looking forward, De Ocampo said he intends to fight to preserve the Affordable Care Act in hopes that no family will have to encounter the same types of financial challenges that his did during his father’s battle with cancer. However, if the Republican-led government in Washington
does succeed in repealing and replacing the ACA, De Ocampo said he would move to support Senate Bill 562, a proposal in the California legislature to establish a state-funded universal healthcare system.
He also criticized the Supreme Court’s decision to partially reinstate the travel ban proposed by the Trump Administration.
“I’m disappointed that the Supreme Court is allowing parts of the Trump Administration’s misguided executive order to move forward,” said the first-generation American in an email responding to the high court’s compromise on Tuesday, June 27.
For immigrant rights
De Ocampo added that he stood behind efforts to protect immigrants’ rights and promote access to higher education. If elected, he said he would be prepared to resist any federal policy that would jeopardize the wellbeing of Californians and fight to ensure that all Californians would be able to forge a route to success.
The candidate and proud foster parent told the INQUIRER.net that his campaign is about “giving opportunity to everyone so that they will be able to access the American dream.”
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