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Rafael Gonzalez

Rafael Gonzalez

Southern California Advisory Board Member, Hispanic Scholarship Fund

Director of Best Start Communities, First 5 LA

Rafael González serves as Director of Best Start Communities for First 5 LA.  He is responsible for implementing Best Start’s “Building Stronger Families” framework and community capacity building efforts to strengthen families and promote family-supporting communities that contribute to better outcomes for children. 

Rafael has worked in the spheres of community development, local government, corporate philanthropy, national service, civic engagement, civil rights, immigrant integration and youth development.  He shares a common belief with others in the place-based field that by investing in the capacity of our families and the social infrastructure to support them, and by working from the inside out that parents and other critical community stakeholders will improve the social conditions that impact their neighborhoods.  With the proper alignment of services and collaborative systems in place, families can have a collective impact on the change we all seek.

Prior to First 5 LA, Rafael was with the Los Angeles Dodgers where he served as Director of Community Relations and responsible for building a strong and proactive partnership with the community. Previously, he served as Chief Service Officer and Director of Neighborhood & Community Services for City of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, where he developed and led “We Serve LA”, the civic engagement initiative of the City of Los Angeles, and directed the Mayor’s city-wide field operation and community relations team.

Prior to his service in City government, González was the catalyst in the community-level change efforts of two non-profit organizations.  He served as Executive Director of Public Allies – Los Angeles; a community development and service organization that created opportunities for diverse young leaders to practice leadership and strengthen communities in nonprofit organizations in Los Angeles, and Collective SPACE (Social Power through Action & Community Education); a community based organization in the MacArthur Park/Westlake community with a mission of building an informed and active citizenry to bring about social change through grassroots organizing, education and leadership development.

Rafael previously served as Director of Civic Education & U.S. Citizenship Project Director at the National Association of Latino Elected & Appointed Officials (NALEO) Educational Fund; Affirmative Action Campaign Coordinator at the Mexican American Legal Defense & Educational Fund (MALDEF); Campaign Field Director at Coalition LA & Senior Field Deputy for LA Councilmember Mike Hernandez.

Rafael was born and raised in the downtown area of Los Angeles.  He graduated from Cal State University at Northridge with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Chicano Studies.  He is married & has three sons.

When I think of the challenges facing our youth in their pursuit of higher education I think of the many resourceful ways they find to overcome these hurdles.  It’s their determination to find a means that constantly inspires me regardless of what their final grades were, or their economic and immigration status.  That is why the Hispanic Scholarship Fund is such an important part of our community and the reason I’m involved with HSF.

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