When Marie Lopez Rogers was in high school, her father told her the only way to avoid a life of picking cotton in Arizona -- the life he and his father lived -- was to go to school. So Rogers took her studies seriously, even taking college courses during her high school years.
Rogers escaped the fields. Instead, she worked at her children’s school, got involved in church and met people in the community. Rogers became a go-to resource for people trying to navigate their way through those often frustrating systems.
Eventually, the mayor of Avondale, a Phoenix suburb, told Rogers she should run for city council; she served on the council for a decade before becoming mayor in 2006. As mayor, she worked in a new city hall built on the very fields where, as a child, she had once picked cotton. In 2013, she served as the first Latina president of the National League of Cities.
“From that little girl in the cotton fields to meeting the president at the White House, it’s an amazing dream. I still have to pinch myself and ask: Did that really happen?” she says. Last year, Rogers was picked to fill a vacancy as a Maricopa County supervisor, but lost election to a full term in November. In 2013, she was a guest of President Obama at the State of the Union.