Bay Section

Lucienne Simeu: Pittsburg Adult Education Center

The California Council for Adult Education has selected Pittsburg Adult Education student Lucienne Kegne Simeu for special recognition. Simeu, an English as a Second Language student has been recognized by OTAN (Outreach and Technical Assistance Network)* Students Succeed program.

The award is given annually to adult education students who has overcome difficult circumstances in order to successfully pursue adult learning experiences resulting in employment. Those recognized must have made positive contributions to their community and established and met life goals as a result of attending an adult education program. The award also recognizes those who have improved the life situation of self and/or others as a result of adult learning experiences.

 Ms. Simeu hails from the French-speaking section of Cameroon, Africa. Due to a local civil war, she could not start school until the age of 10. At age 12 Lucia quit school to care for her severely ailing parents and raise her siblings. Two years later, after her family health and financial situation improved, Lucienne chose not to return to school due to the shame she felt being two years behind her peers. She focused instead on building a successful small business making and selling crackers in the local marketplace.

At age 18, Lucia married and had a baby. She wanted to return to school but her husband would not allow her to do so. She contented herself raising her growing family and reading in her spare time.

In November of 2012 Lucia’s oldest daughter, now a doctor living in the Pittsburg area, brought Lucia and her husband to the United States. At this point Lucia spoke only French and several African tribal languages. Taking care of her grandchildren, Lucia felt a compelling need to learn English in order to communicate with her grandchildren’s teachers and be prepared to handle any emergency situations that could arise. It was at this time that she began attending English as a Second Language classes offered at the Pittsburg Adult Education Center (PAEC). She also enrolled in a Certified Nursing Assistant program offered by the school and consequently passed her Certified Nursing Assistant state examination early in 2018. Upon passing her state certification she was immediately offered a job at a local rehabilitation center. During this time she also busied herself with giving speeches on women’s suffrage and women’s rights. She currently is developing a talk about women inventors and their inventions.

Lucia continues the tradition of her women relatives in sharing their passion for education and helping others. Her grandmother received a medal from the first president of Cameroon for her work in the village hospital aiding local doctors assist in child births. Lucia smiles at the thought of how proud her grandmother and mother would be to know that she is carrying on the tradition.   

*OTAN provides electronic collaboration, information, and support for instructional technology and distance learning to literacy and adult education providers in California. It is their objective to lead California adult education in the integration of technology into the educational process, ultimately empowering learners to meet their academic, employment, civic and personal goals.

Michael Gonzaga: Fremont Adult School

Michael Gonzaga, a graduate of Fremont Adult School, never thought that he would one day become a senior medical student with plans of applying to a residency program and becoming a future physician. Currently finishing up his third year of medical school at Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee, Michael strives to carve out a path in medicine that focuses on bringing resources to low-income patients and being an advocate who spotlights the issues that underinsured patients face in order to gain greater access to needed healthcare services.

Mr. Gonzaga's path started over 15 years ago where he was invited to complete a fifth year of attendance at Irvington High School. With no solid direction for his future aspirations, he completed his high school degree in 2000 from the Fremont Adult School and began his coursework at Ohlone College while leaning on mentors such as librarians, professors and academic counselors to complete an associate's degree. He transferred to the University of California, Davis in 2002 and graduated with a degree in Sociology two and a half years later. Realizing that becoming a doctor was how he could make the greatest impact, he continued his education at Ohlone College, Chabot College, Berkeley City College, Merritt College, Solano College and the University of California, Berkeley Extension while working as a sales representative, fork lift driver, front desk staff, call room operator, researcher, and coordinator in order to obtain a post baccalaureate degree which would allow him to apply to medical school.

Michael was accepted to Meharry Medical College and began his first year of coursework in 2011. Since then, he has served on the board of directors to initiate the first free student run clinic at Meharry known as the 12 South Community Clinic, received a yearlong scholarship to participate in community engaged research, and has been working as a Patient Advocate in the Nashville General Hospital's Emergency Department providing comfort for families visiting the ER while working with the medical team to provide triage, ancillary, and procedural support. Michael hopes to attend a residency program that will provide training to prepare him for establishing comprehensive health centers in low-income communities while mentoring community leaders of color, aspiring physicians, and other health allies who will have access to scholarship, training and educational opportunities.

Cynthia Eagleton: San Mateo High School

Whenever I see the red shirts in support of adult education worn by our students and faculty at the San Mateo Adult School on Tuesdays, I think of Cynthia Eagleton. Perhaps I do so because as a new administrator at San Mateo Adult School back in 2014, Cynthia first introduced herself to me wearing the red shirt and explained to me the school’s Tuesday tradition of “Wear Red in Support of Adult Ed.”

The San Mateo’s Federation of Teachers Union, AFT Local 4681, established the tradition in the days of categorical flexibility, when adult school funding was slashed statewide and fiscal control of the budget taken out of the hands of the adult schools. The red shirts represented a concrete visual, a colorful show of the strength in numbers of the supporters of adult education in their fight to restore equitable funding and services to its students.

Cynthia, herself, has served as the San Mateo’s Federation of Teachers Union Vice President and Secretary. She began her career at San Mateo Adult School in 1998. She says adult education was actually her second career, and over the years she has taught in the ESL, Parent Education, and Older Adult Programs and is currently teaching Distance Learning to ESL Students.

As creator and editor of the San Mateo Adult School Blog, Cynthia has contributed immensely to building a positive school culture on our campus, and the blog has become a forum to inform and inspire students as well as to share their success stories. The blog also encourages student advocacy and civic participation, and includes articles on immigrant rights, fair and affordable housing, GREEN and environmental sustainability, and adult education policy.

Advocacy, whether on campus or in the larger community, has been a passion for Cynthia. She credits the efforts and activism of her colleagues at San Mateo Adult School and her work with her fellow union representatives and leaders as catalysts for positive change. “It’s been a joint effort at our school,” she says.

In support for adult education policy over the years, she has coordinated advocacy efforts with other educators throughout the state, including CCAE State Board and Bay Section leadership. Cynthia has worked closely with Kristen Pursley of West Contra Costa Adult School, editor of Save Your Adult School Blog, and with Karen Arthur of Oxnard Adult School, editor of Alliance for California Adult Schools. Cynthia also edits her own blog, Adult Education Matters. Cynthia believes that taking initiative and working with others increases the power and collective impact of advocacy. She has pushed to include teacher and student voices in the dialogue with educational leaders and government legislators. “Their voices are important in creating policy,” she says.

Today, thanks to the tireless work of advocates for adult education, like Cynthia, direct funding for adult education has been restored under the California Adult Education Program. The red shirts, now worn at schools, conferences, and rallies in support of adult education across the state have become a powerful symbol of the impact of adult education advocacy, and they also serve as a reminder of the advocacy that still needs to be continued.

Submitted by Eric Saavedra
CCAE Bay Section President
San Mateo Adult School