As our inaugural IgniteLA class gets closer to its final week, our EmpowerLA team gathered to highlight the successes, learning, and bonds developed among the group of 50 Angelenas taking part in our leadership training, designed to empower and inspire young women with the skills to grow into powerful civic leaders.


Coming from West LA, West Valley, East Valley, and here in DTLA, our young IgniteLA leaders celebrated at City Hall’s Bradley Tower over tacos, reflections on the last two months, and inspiration in an awards ceremony with EmpowerLA General Manager Grayce Liu and Ana Guerrero, Chief of Staff for Mayor Eric Garcetti.


Addressing the students and recognizing their parents and families, she shared her path to becoming mayor’s chief strategist, including lessons learned from her role as lead organizer for the United Neighborhoods Organization (UNO), helping more than 5,000 immigrants get naturalized.


“I’m grateful for it every day because I’m not supposed to be in this job,” she said, describing moving to California from Mexico as a child and growing up on an apple farm in Sonoma. “Yet here I am today, the chief of staff to the mayor of the second-largest city in America.”


“As leaders, you’re going to organize people,” she said, offering examples gleaned from “spending 25 years inside and outside of government, all of it organizing people.”


  • “Leaders are always listeners; they’re not always talkers. I encourage you to listen to people and find out what their passions are.”
  • Leaders have to have a vision that inspires, is “contagious: “People want a positive vision that they want to be a part of.”
  • Leaders are proactive: “You have to have a base and people follow you.”
  • Leaders understand “relational” versus “unilateral” power: “Relational power is with people; unilateral or dominant is over people. Relational power means we’ve taken the time to understand people, what makes them tick.”


As Grayce Liu congratulated the class of leaders of tomorrow, she asked them to take away one more lesson: Run for office and run for Neighborhood Councils.


“As Ana was saying, government is about being able to lift communities, and that’s what Neighborhood Councils can do for their communities,” she said, pointing to the growing success among young women among NC leadership, who make up about 43% of 18-to-24 year-old board members. “It’s great to learn something, but you to have to practice it.”


Neighborhood Council Advocate Jasmine Elbarbary, lead facilitator of the IgniteLA initiative, asked the young participants to reflect on what they learned, echoing speaker remarks around organizing and running for office: “I can’t wait to vote for all of you!”

IgniteLA graduates with Grayce Liu and Vanessa Serrano of EmpowerLA

IgniteLA graduates with Grayce Liu and Vanessa Serrano of EmpowerLA


Ignite LA graduates with EmpowerLA's Jasmine Elbarbary and Grayce Liu

Ignite LA graduates with EmpowerLA’s Jasmine Elbarbary and Grayce Liu


Ignite graduation photo Spring 2018 - Ana Guerrero (Chief of Staff for Mayor Garcetti) addresses the crowd

Ana Guerrero (Chief of Staff for LA Mayor Eric Garcetti) addresses the crowd at the IgniteLA graduation ceremony