Teresa Alonso Leon is a trailblazing advocate and fighter for all Oregonians. She spent her life– first as a community member and then as a State Representative – advocating for the people of Oregon’s 6th Congressional District, one of the most diverse districts in the state.
As an Indigenous and Latina immigrant, Teresa’s lived experiences mirror many of those who live in the district. She has endured numerous hardships and overcame incredible odds throughout her life. These experiences shaped her into a devoted activist and public servant who fights for working families, quality education, good-paying jobs, and universal healthcare. In her tenure as state representative, Teresa has built a legacy of helping improve Oregon’s education system to ensure that all students can succeed. Now, she will take her courage to Washington to continue to fight for Oregon as a member of Congress.
Born in San Jeronimo Purenchecuaro, Mexico, Teresa immigrated to the United States with her parents when she was just four years old. Teresa’s parents, Guadalupe and Vicente, have spent most of their lives as farm workers in the fields of Oregon. The promise of opportunity and the quality of education provided the impetus for the 2,500-mile journey from Michoacán to Oregon. The American Dream her parents envisioned wasn’t for themselves – it was for Teresa and her siblings.
Her parents’ sacrifices gave Teresa perspective on the struggles of working families, and the importance of hard work and altruism. During her childhood, Teresa picked berries alongside her parents to earn enough money for school supplies. Years later, she would become a grocery bagger in Woodburn to earn supplemental income for school clothes and lunch for her and her siblings. When her parents saved enough for a house, Teresa helped translate the documents needed to qualify her parents for a low-interest loan.
I remember when the picking season ended we’d have so little money we had to give up ‘luxuries’ like running water and heat for the house. We’d all sleep close in heavy wool blankets that had been donated to many of the farming families. My parents would choose between going to the doctor or buying groceries when they got sick
Resilience in the face of adversity made Teresa the community advocate that she is today. Through it all, Teresa knew that education remained a constant in her life and her way to achieving more for her family. A devoted student, Teresa excelled academically with the support and encouragement of teachers and educators who believed in her. Teresa worked with a school counselor to find programs that put her on the fast track to college. Instead of starting her junior year of high school, she completed her GED to get a jump start on college. Teresa attended University of Oregon’s high school equivalency program on a scholarship. After performing exceptionally, Teresa attended Lane Community College and would go on to earn her Bachelor of Arts in Social Science from Western Oregon University as well as a Master’s in Public Administration from Portland State University. Teresa believes in the power of mentoring and as an undergraduate, she worked with one of her college professors to restructure a program that helped connect high school students with college students.
It was the best decision I could have made for myself and my family. I was already breaking traditional expectations of what a young Indigenous and Latina woman would do with her future.
Returning to Woodburn to begin her career, friends, neighbors and colleagues soon recognized Teresa’s commitment to closing the opportunity gap for working-class residents, particularly through education and economic reform.
Determined to help lift up families and communities, she became a United States citizen, and in 2013 was appointed to the Woodburn City Council. As only the third person of color to serve on the Council, Rep. Alonso Leon worked in partnership with residents, advocates, and other council members to combat the inequities and disparities facing the community.
In 2016, she launched a historic campaign for Oregon House District 22 – one of the most challenging swing districts in the state – and won, becoming the first Indigenous, Latina immigrant elected to the Oregon legislature.
Since her election to the State House, Teresa has been dedicated to the kind of change that inspired her to run for office. She has introduced legislation to invest in early childhood and higher education, reduce the cost of prescription drugs, improve public safety and support both workers and small businesses throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. She has been a vocal advocate on behalf of our immigrant communities, helped to break down language barriers, fought to protect critical reproductive rights, and spoken up for what is best for all Oregonians.
Representing House District 22, Teresa proudly serves as the Chair for the House Committee On Education, is a member of the House Committee On Health Care and is on the Joint Committee On Ways and Means Subcommittee On Education.
I never knew it was possible for someone like me, an Indigenous, Latina immigrant with no experience in politics, to serve my community. And it’s an even greater dream come true to be running for Congress to Fight for All Oregonians.