40 Under 40 The Class of 2012

Gladys Oyola: 39

Election Commissioner, City of Springfield

Oyala-GladysGladys Oyola says she has been “lucky and privileged to have had some great mentors in my life.”
Growing up in the Brightwood section of Springfield, she named many people with a formative experience on her professional development, including Cheryl Coakley-Rivera, the first Latina state representative, who grew up a block away.
Oyola herself is the first Latina to hold her title in Springfield, and she is proud to be another member of the community blazing the way in her hometown. She credits the city with inspiring a grassroots, activist spirit, and said that volunteerism is important if one wants to be actively involved in their community. “Before I was old enough to work, I was volunteering my time, answering phones.”
Where she once helped as a youth, at the Springfield Neighborhood Housing Service, she now sits on the board, in addition to her active roles at the New North Citizen’s Council and Springfield’s Spanish Language Advisory Committee. “It’s an obligation, really,” she said. “Anyone who is in a position such as I am should take part in those types of civic roles for the betterment of where they live.
“And it’s equally important to mentor youth to understand the necessity of these organizations in our lives,” she continued. “I do this with my daughter; I make sure that she comes with me on volunteering opportunities, so that she can see this, and when she’s old enough, that she understands the importance.”
Oyola encourages everyone to examine their lives and to find an outlet to give back. “Whatever field you love — education, sports — become involved in that area and volunteer in your city and town. It just naturally allows you to be connected better to your community.”
Just as many others inspired her as a girl, she said that it’s an important part of her job to lead by example for young women. “This is what others did for me, whether they meant to or not. I want to be a mentor for the cultivation of more females into the world of politics.”
— Dan Chase