Team Member

Roy Tongilava

Message Roy Tongilava

Roy Tongilava

Policy Analyst, TK-12

Roy (he/him) joins The Education Trust—West as a Policy Analyst (TK-12) with considerable experience in research and policy analysis, grassroots advocacy, and four years of legislative experience. Prior to joining ETW, Roy worked in the State Legislature as the first Tongan American legislative staffer in numerous roles. Most recently, Roy served as a Senior District Representative to State Senator Dave Cortese, representing the 15th Senate District. In this role, he led district efforts on P-16 education advocacy trips to California’s State Capitol, public spending accountability, external engagement management, and strategic planning. Roy also served as a Legislative Aide and Capitol Fellow in the Jesse M. Unruh Assembly Fellowship as well as an Asian Pacific Islander Capitol Association (APICA) intern, where he advanced legislative proposals that ensured resources and equitable funding for the state’s most underserved communities including foster youth, English Language Learners and immigrant families.

As a son of Pasifika immigrants with a middle school education, Roy’s parents nonetheless instilled in him the importance and value of education and praised it to be the surest way of survival and economic mobility. Much like his ancestors navigated the seas using stars, Roy navigated institutions of education by leveraging their strength and power to honor their sacrifices and live up to their American Dream. As a product of California’s K-12 public school system, Roy went on to earn a B.A. in Public Policy from the University of California Riverside and a Graduate Certificate in Applied Policy and Government from Sacramento State University, where his passion for policy and advocacy began through involvements in Associated Students of UC Riverside, University of California Student Association (UCSA), UCDC, Asian Pacific Student Programs, College Democrats and the Pacific Islander Student Association.

Currently, Roy serves on the board of South Pacific Islander Organization, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to establish and strengthen the pipeline of Pacific Islanders into higher education through scholarships, resource-sharing, programming, and community-building, and also serves on the City of San Jose’s San Jose For All Advisory Board which aims to elevate racial equity in city planning, administration, and services through centering racial equity, diversity and the intersectionality of all marginalized identities.


“Educational equity is deeply personal to me—having attended several public schools leading up to college, I never once saw a Pacific Islander teacher, administrator, professor nor did I see us in textbooks, lesson plans or any literature, despite American Samoa and Hawaii being annexed into the union over a hundred years ago. Yet, access to race-conscious resources and specifically access to opportunity for someone like me was close to nonexistent, I knew I needed to persist and continue forward notwithstanding all odds stacked against me—but for many folx like me, they continue to fall through the cracks of which our institutions continually perpetuate. My hope is to continue eliminating barriers and creating equitable opportunities for students oftentimes overlooked and left in the margins in our public education system, and I look forward to advancing this work with ETW.”