Ricki Ruiz holding a soccer ball

Faces of Our Strategic Plan: Ricki Ruiz

June 24, 2024

Mt. Hood Community College (MHCC) alum Ricki Ruiz has charted an inspiring path from student to a respected Oregon state representative for District 50 in the Gresham area. His background is one many Oregonians and MHCC students can relate to and has shaped him into the public servant he is today.

Ruiz become involved with MHCC when he was in sixth grade and joined the college’s TRIO program. Through this program, he was exposed to different colleges and was inspired to keep learning.

“The TRIO program... opened our eyes to other colleges like Portland State University,

Portland Community College, and many more,” Ruiz said. “They really just went above and beyond to ensure that we were preparing ourselves for a potential community college pathway or a public university pathway.”

Ruiz joined a different program in high school that allowed him to take college-level classes at MHCC from 2011 to 2012. His goal at first was to study Spanish but he later shifted his focus to public service when he realized he wanted to help fix problems in schools and help people who were struggling.

“One of the things that I remember from being a student at Reynolds High School was teachers being cut or vital programs being cut off,” Ruiz said. “It was this pattern that I noticed where they would always cut the newer teachers, which at the time were mostly younger teachers of color. Or they were cutting programs that were targeted toward serving students of color or students with higher needs. I just kind of told myself, ‘I think there are other ways to go about this.’”

Ruiz became a school board director for the Reynolds School District in 2017 with the goal of learning how those budget choices were made. He quickly learned that a large part of those choices were made at the state level. This led him to run for office with the State of Oregon and in 2020 he became a state legislator.

Since taking office, Ruiz has helped make big changes in Oregon including giving more money to schools, community colleges, and universities.

“We made a historic investment of over $15 billion in the K-12 system,” Ruiz said.

Additionally, Ruiz helped pass an Individual Development Accounts (IDA) bill which helps Oregonians who are looking to buy their first home, attend college, or start a business, among other things.

“The IDA program has shown how it’s been really successful among Oregonians who want to be self-sufficient and want to pursue something higher. So that’s an accomplishment that I’m really proud of,” Ruiz said. Ruiz reflects on his own life when he makes decisions on what legislation to support. A second-generation U.S. citizen, Ruiz was born to farm laborers who worked endless hours while raising their family in low-income housing. He recalls how it feels to struggle.

“I remember the feeling having to translate while trying to explain to our landlord why we shouldn’t be evicted or trying to urge [Portland General Electric] not to cut our electricity because we didn’t have money, or just going to the food pantry and asking them for a box of food,” Ruiz said. “All those life experiences really stayed with me and are still relevant because it influences the policies that I do for Oregonians…I just want to do everything I can to minimize that feeling.”

Ruiz’s main concerns as a representative are to increase affordable housing and lower food insecurity. Despite these problems Oregonians face, Ruiz seems hopeful for what lays ahead. He is taking steps to set his two-year-old daughter up for success in her career and he looks forward to continuing his work of building a better Oregon.

“Nothing has been a better experience for me than just being in public service because we are influencing policies that will be in effect for decades to come. I hope that we continue to bring people in who are well-versed in specific topics, who bring their life experiences and the experiences of their loved ones and turn them into policy, because those are the policies that are strong, that are meaningful,” Ruiz said.