Manuel "Lito" Pena School is named after the former Arizona lawmaker who served our state for 30 years. Pena died in 2003, the year the school opened in honor of him. Pena was known as the "godfather of the Senate Democrats in the 80's & 90's." In 1950, a judge's ruling forced nearby Tolleson School District to open its doors to all races. When school officials in Tolleson refused to follow the order, Pena talked to the judge, who brought the United States marshall to the district.
Peña is considered a champion of education and was a mentor to young Latino students and lawmakers.