Congressman Pete Aguilar represents the 31st Congressional District in California, which includes the City of San Bernardino, as well as portions of Rialto and Rancho Cucamonga in the Inland Empire region. As a fourth generation resident of the area, he has a deep understanding of the challenges facing his constituents and the region as a whole, including generating and protecting local jobs and fostering education opportunities.
Early Days and Education
Aguilar understood the value of hard work from a young age. Born in Fontana and raised in San Bernardino, he started working with his grandfather at the San Bernardino Courthouse cafeteria at 12 years old. After going to public schools in Yucaipa, he began the process of identifying and researching possible colleges – and how to finance his higher education.
While he had a desire to remain in the area, Aguilar also found a perfect match in the University of Redlands. Even though it was a private nonprofit institution, the University – located in the Inland Empire since 1907 – met his academic needs and was the most affordable option.
Aguilar was committed to his education and wanted to do well, working consistently throughout his years at the University. He also benefited greatly by student loans and financial aid assistance, including the federal Pell Grant.
“I personally understand how difficult it is for people to pay for school,” he said. “Financial aid was a huge factor in helping me see it through.”
Aguilar graduated with degrees in both Government and Business Administration and credits the University of Redlands with preparing him for his future career and public service.
The Road to Public Service
Redland’s smaller class size and specialized attention were key contributing factors to his success. Having the opportunity to spend time with professors and learn about different experiences and options had a tremendous impact, as did the level of attention Aguilar received from faculty. Another key influence was the school’s community service learning program, which requires undergraduates to participate in a Community Service Activity course in order to learn how to be a whole community member and have educational balance.
“I didn’t enroll in school with the idea that I would go into politics,” said Aguilar, “but Redlands gave me the chance to ask questions, interact with professors, and learn about government and public policy issues. After I took advantage of a university scholarship and went to Washington D.C. for a summer, I came back with a renewed focus. I saw firsthand that I could be an advocate for my community and found my passion.”
Aguilar began his public service career in 2001 when then-Governor Gray Davis appointed him as deputy director of the governor’s Inland Empire Regional Office. He went on to serve on the Redlands City Council as its youngest member in 2006, and eventually elected to be mayor in 2010. In his role as Congressman, Aguilar now represents the region that includes his alma mater, the University of Redlands.
Vision for the Inland Empire
In the midst of his inaugural term as a member of Congress, Aguilar remembers how he benefited from his education experience and wants to ensure that educational opportunities continue to exist for future generations. A key component of that is making college more affordable and increasing education attainment to ensure there are career pathways for students upon graduation.
“Cal Grants and other funding programs are huge,” he said. “There is no way we can continue to grow enrollment, especially with minorities and first-generation college students, without protecting grant programs and staying committed to them. For so many, they are truly the building blocks for making higher education happen.”
In addition to his responsibilities in Washington D.C., where he focuses on policies that create jobs, support students, and safeguard vital programs for seniors and veterans, Aguilar spends significant time in Redlands, where he lives with his wife and two sons.
For more information visit Congressman Aguilar’s Website