Northern Section

Harvey Gunderman: Davis Adult & Community Education

Harvey Gunderman practically tripped and fell into Adult Education.  “I never considered working in adult education, but now, it seems like it’s where I was always meant to be,” he says with his characteristic grin on his face. Harvey came to my attention 3 years ago when he was referred to me as an AVID tutor (AVID being my other hat in the district). I told him that I was looking for tutors for our adult night program, but, at that time, I had no resources to pay him. He offered to volunteer two nights a week and the teachers were happy to have his help.  Soon, he was coming into the office early to see how he could help and the teachers were praising the way he was able to connect with students in the classroom. 

Eventually, we were able to bring him on as an hourly paid tutor, but his role soon expanded to include attending trainings on CASAS testing, TOPS Pro, and consortium initiatives. Once our state funding was restored, I created the position of Adult School Coordinator, a job tailor made for his skill set and capabilities. He has been my right hand man ever since, running all of our CASAS testing, acting as our data manager in Tops, assisting both ESL and ASE teachers, and running all of our student orientation sessions. Harvey is a self-starter and problem-solver extraordinaire. I know that I can give him any task, some idea of what I am looking for, and he will figure out the best way to get it done. It’s amazing to have such a great assistant who can not only accomplish the day to day tasks, but also act as a thought partner for new ideas and as a leader for our school.

Harvey is currently attending UC Davis, majoring in Philosophy and considering a double major or minor in Education. I worry about the day that he graduates because I don’t know what I will do without him, but I also cheer his success.  If you attend the CCAE conference in the Spring, keep a look out for Harvey (you’ll know him when you see him), and come by and say hi!

Isela Jimenez: Folsom Cordova Adult School

When you walk into Folsom Cordova Community Partnership Job Center, located on the Folsom Cordova Adult School campus, you are greeted with the smiling face of Isela Diaz Jiminez with either a "hello" or an "ola." Isela is an administrative assistant at the Job Center. She is one of Folsom Cordova Adult School's (FCAS) many shining success stories. Isela started out in FCAS's Adult Basic Education to work on her math, reading, and writing and to prepare for the HiSET Class. After about a year Isela passed the HiSET tests and set her sights on the office Technologies CTE pathway. At FCAS she completed Office Technologies along with the QuickBooks Certification. After graduating and receiving the office certifications, Isela started an internship at the Job Center. Eventually, she was promoted to a full-time paying job with benefits. Isela is extremely helpful at the Job Center-helping job candidates find the resources and staff that will help them on the next step in their employment path. Isela could have settled for a minimum wage job, but she pushed herself to pass the HiSET and get the Office Technologies Certification. This is what FCAS is all about-determining students' goals and getting them on the pathway to achieving their goals.

Raymond Lopez: Charles A. Jones Adult Education

My name is Raymond Lopez. In 2004, I decided to enroll in American River Junior College to better myself with an education and get a better career. After the first semester, I was doing well. I made the dean's list and was on winter break set to return on January 5th to finish my general education. On the night of January 4, 2005 my roommates and I were home-invaded in Sacramento, in an area called North Highlands, by two burglars. They both had guns. I almost lost my life that night trying to save my roommates from any harm. I suffered a severe brain injury and had to have multiple surgeries for brain swelling, bone fragments that punctured my brain, and a serious subdural hematoma. I was in the ICU for 15 days after the emergency surgery. I did not know my mother's name or my sister’s name for about 7 days. The doctor told my mom they would know after seven days if the memory loss was permanent. During those first seven days, anytime someone would walk into my room I thought I was getting robbed all over again. On day eight I sat up in the morning and when my mom and sister came in I called them by their names, “Mom, Jen I'm so glad you're here. I really missed you guys!” The nurses kept telling me I was here for a reason and that I was a miracle, but I didn't understand at the time. I got out of the hospital after 27 days. I was severely depressed and wanted revenge for what those men did to me. I lived with my mother in Vacaville, CA. During this time, it was hard for both of us because I was struggling with the recovery process. It hurt her to see me like this, but she always supported me during this time and told me I could do it one day at a time. I went to therapy weekly at Kaiser to talk to a psychiatrist. I also had to meet two times a week with a speech therapist. I had trouble with vocabulary; I knew the words and had used them before but just couldn't pull them from my memory. I had to go to anger management because of an overwhelming amount of anger from what had happened to me. Before this happened, I played competitive golf at a high level. However, during my recovery when my dad took me to the golf course to putt I missed the hole by 5 feet.  I dropped down to my knees and sobbed about how they beat my golf game out of me. I came to a point where I asked my mom to write down the “Our Father” prayer. I recited that prayer nightly when I would go to sleep like a little boy on his knees begging for help. I also purchased a Bible and read it front to back. I figured if I was going to pray I better know God and his story. One day I woke up and the words from the prayer, “forgive those who trespass against us” stuck with me and meant something to me. Even if I got revenge with those men it would not change what I had been through. After that point, I started to work harder at getting better. I couldn't drive so I would walk 5 miles to the golf course to practice. The recovery took about 2 years with a lot of therapy for cognitive issues and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  Day by day I was getting better, but I was super emotional and would cry at the drop of a hat. I stopped taking the anti-seizure medication since I had not had a seizure for a year, and I could drive again. My mom wanted me to stay with her, but I felt like a burden to her, so I moved to Sonora, CA where my dad lived. When I finally got to a point where I could start working again I stayed away from challenging my brain with education because of the trauma, and I was afraid that my brain wouldn't work as well. I took different maintenance jobs and was a laborer for a drywall company. Settling for using my body to work, and not my mind, was good for about 9 years.  

In June of 2014, I fell while working for an apartment complex. I was up about 15 feet on a ladder changing parking lot lights, and my supervisor was holding the ladder when the ladder rotated around the pole. I fell onto a parking curb and broke my back in two different places and shattered the scaphoid in my left wrist. I lived with my fiancé and her two children. She took care of me and drove me to all my appointments. I felt like a terrible man because I couldn't do anything to help her. I felt worthless. After two surgeries, I still have residual lower back pain from my disk and tail bone. I could never return to being a laborer or working in maintenance because of my injuries. I tried to find clerical work in Sonora, CA. I got lots of interviews and job offers but nothing during regular hours. I had several graveyard-shift offers at the casino, but at the time my fiancé was working as a CNA on the night shift. I had to work during the day while the kids were in school and take care of the kids at night while she was at work. I got 3 different interviews at the new hospital. The human resource department really liked me and my resume but without any type of schooling in the medical field it would be hard to get me in. They said sometimes they could train personnel, but they needed someone with experience in admitting right away. 

I decided to go back to school to become a medical assistant to help people, something that I’ve always enjoyed, and use my brain instead of my body to work. The medical field has always interested me being a patient, but I wanted to learn more about it and impact someone the way the nurses and MA’s impacted me during my recovery. The medical field is growing and has great benefits for a family. Working with the public is something I've always enjoyed. I searched all types of schools in the Bay Area and junior colleges. Junior college was the way I was heading but it took longer and they offered one class but another class had a long waiting list. I kept running into that problem the more schools I checked out. Finishing school and getting back into the workforce would take even longer. My friends that work in the medical field as LVN’s for Kaiser told me that the teacher in the medical assisting program at Charles A. Jones was knowledgeable and well known in the field. A lot of their MA’s that worked for Kaiser went to the school on Lemon Hill. So, I looked up Charles A. Jones Adult Education and it really caught my eye because of the teacher, accelerated learning, and the externship hours. I realized that you need experience to enter this field and what better way than to have a longer externship. I attended an orientation at CAJ but didn't get to meet the teacher and ask questions. Even so, I knew this was what I wanted to do. Nobody was pushing me; I wanted this for myself: to have a career that could last a long time. I took all the steps to enroll. I got financial aid being on disability and applied for and received a scholarship to pay the remaining balance. I had to commute about an hour to school from Fairfield, CA, but I was very happy with this school. I started school in October. After meeting Mrs. Bradshaw, she asked me how bad I wanted this and how hard I was willing to work for this. I told her it was my goal to become a medical assistant, and I was tough enough not to quit.  When class started, I began to think I couldn't do it, wanted to quit, and barely kept afloat. Mrs. Bradshaw kept reassuring me that I could do this and to put my life on hold to achieve my goal.  After I got a warning about being dropped from the class and an option to quit before I got too far into the program, I told myself I was not going to fail. I had to study harder, all night if I had to, but I was not walking out that door. I also work full time at night so that makes it harder, but if I put my mind to it I can do anything. I work in a warehouse doing inventory at night. I just walk around with a PDA device and order more product for the employees to build loads. I study a lot with flashcards. I place them all around the warehouse on the pallets and quiz myself as I walk around. I hardly get any sleep, but I figure that it’s only 8 months so I can sacrifice now for the long-term goal. As class progresses so do my grades and test scores, and I challenge myself to beat my last test score. I have accomplished all the back-office tasks, such as blood draws, injections, finger sticks, PPD’s, blood pressures, Snellen eye tests, hearing tests, and EKGs. Now I'm in front office learning the business side of the job, making forms, learning the laws, scope of practice, and nutrition. 

Through everything I've been through and realizing that my brain is stronger than it was before, I have been given a second chance at life. Teachers have the biggest impact on students, and without Mrs. Bradshaw teaching at a higher level to make me more valuable as a medical assistant and pushing me to do my absolute best, I would not be where I am today. I am grateful to have Mrs. Bradshaw in my life, believing in me and reassuring me with confidence that I will make a great medical assistant and a true asset to a company because of my caring nature and hard work. Being Mrs. Bradshaw's student is a blessing, and I am where I am today with her help.  

Teachers are amazing people, and I am thankful for what Mrs. Bradshaw has shown me. I know it is up to me to achieve more at a higher level with the tools she have given me. I will never forget all she has shown and taught me. I want to continue my education to obtain my phlebotomy license, and I want to become an EMT. I want to continue with adult education because of the great experience I’ve had at Charles A. Jones. I would recommend CAJ to any student looking to better themselves or looking to become a medical assistant. I would like to thank Charles A. Jones Adult Education for giving me the opportunity to return to school and change career paths. I am truly grateful for the opportunity to continue in adult education. Thank you.

Imelda Donato: Stockton School for Adults

Hello, my name is Imelda Donato. I am one of five children in my family. I am the first to have graduated and have gone to college. I am an Adult Education Counselor at Stockton School for Adults. So, how did I get here? I would like to share my story with you. But please bear with me as my journey like those of many others had road blocks and speed bumps that slowed me down. It was not a straight path to success. I did not go straight to college after knowing most of my childhood what wanted to be “when I grow up.” In fact I did not know I could go to college. I was unaware of my potential.

My journey to becoming a counselor began as a student at Stockton School for Adults, but I didn’t decide that I wanted to be a student there, I ended up at School for Adults in 1996 after my high school counselor notified me that I was “not going to graduate” and since I was 18 years old I was referred to School for Adults. I think that I internalized that to mean that I was not smart simply because I was not fluent in the language and not because I did not meet the requirements for graduation.

The combination of missing school due to constant moving to follow the crop seasons and the fact that I thought I was not smart because I had to repeat a grade since I did not speak English fluently had finally caught up with me…I ran out of time. I have vague memories of sitting in the back of the class at a round table with a small group and looking at very colorful pictures while being asked to identify them, I was an English learner. Once I was in high school I had a better grasp of the English language, but by then it was late. I enrolled at Stockton School for Adults (SFA) without expectations, either from myself or the staff. My future was not clear. I just knew that in order to avoid farm work which my mother had exposed us to every summer since we were young, I had to be at school. I would attend all school sessions possible and although I had begun with no expectations that would soon change. Ms. Baba, my homeroom teacher at SFA was the first to ask me about my goals and future after graduation. I don’t think I had an answer right away. So she continued to ask. I was unaware that the reason why she was asking was because I was close to meeting my high school requirements. I had not thought about what I would do after graduation, because I did not think that day would ever come. After all, here I was because I had not been able to meet my high school requirements. Throughout my time with Ms. Baba, she would encourage me to take class test and this gave me a sense that she believed in me. She thought I could and that was enough for me to try and not let her down. I completed my high school requirements before the school year ended, seven months after I had enrolled and attended full time at SFA, I was a graduate. I attended my local community college, San Joaquin Delta College obtained my AA and transfer to CSU Stanislaus, always staying local and within my community. After I had graduated and obtained my Bachelor’s Degree, I returned to School for Adults as a substitute teacher one day. I saw Ms. Baba in the front office told her all about my wonderful job as a substitute teacher. Ms. Baba invited me to consider giving a speech to the graduating class that year, once again here she was believing that I could do something that I had never considered. Tell my story so that others would be inspired. I could never say no to Ms. Baba, she had done so much for me, just by encouraging me. After the graduation speech I developed a special connection with SFA. I returned as a substitute teacher and eventually became an ESL teacher. There was special connection that I had for the ESL students learning a new language and for the young adults that were trying to meet there high school requirements to obtain their high school diplomas. I had been there before.

School for Adults gave me a sense of connection and helped me realized that I had the potential for learning. Ms. Baba, an adult education teacher saw something in me, that I had not seen in myself and she somehow brought out in me a desire to learn. The fire had been lit and there was no putting it out. In 2012 I returned to school to obtain my master’s in Education with an emphasis in School Counseling. Every year a student is chosen to receive the Outstanding Student Achiever for the Pupil Personnel Service Credential Program. In 2014, I received that award, and there front and center, present to see me received an award in academic excellence was Ms. Baba. As I walked across the stage I thought to myself, here I am a student who had to learn English, a student who had to attend Adult Education.

Now, here I am an Adult Education Counselor. I am the person on the other side of the desk asking student to share with me their educational goals. When I see a student that is trying to meet their high school requirements, I always share with them that I too sat on a chair like them not knowing what lied ahead, but having travel that road I can help ease their anxiety. When I see ESL students, I explain to them that practicing English and not giving up is one of the best things that they can do to get ahead. I did not know that I could graduate. I didn’t know that I had potential, but thanks to Ms. Nancy Baba and Adult educator at Stockton School for Adults, I can help others discover this in themselves.

Hortencia: Elk Grove Adult & Community Education

Hortencia dreamed of working in the medical field since she was child, in Mexico, but knew she needed to improve her English language skills first. "Everyone I know speaks only Spanish," she said. "Even though I have been here for 30 years, all of my jobs have workplaces with Spanish-speaking coworkers so I didn't get practice there, either."

After her layoff from Bimbo Bread, in November 2013, she enrolled with Elk Grove Adult & Community Education (EGACE) Training Center and worked with Connie Guillen Torres and then Monica Mercado Vasquez to put together a plan to sharpen her employability skills. "Monica helps all the time," she said. "She encourages me and stays in touch, asking me how I am doing and always answering my questions. That really helped me!"

Hortencia immediately enrolled in English as a Second Language for the Workplace, at EGACE, and remained in that class, through July 2014. Her instructor, Mari Hudson, assisted her in her reading, vocabulary, spelling, and pronunciation skills. In the afternoons, she attended Career Academic Development (CAD), with instructor Kathleen Edel, using the computer to develop a professional cover letter, resume and portfolio.

Once she had completed these steps, Hortencia was ready to join the NCMA class, in the fall of 2014. The class was challenging; but she said, "Ms. Gilmore was patient. She explained step-by-step, so everyone can understand. She's amazing! Ms. Gilmore may be small, but she is a strong woman!"
Hortencia completed the rigorous class and proudly wore her cap and gown, at the February 28, 2015, graduation ceremony. "If you have the opportunity, you have to go to school. My coworkers said, 'No, we're too old.' But they were wrong. You can do it!"

Geno Malkiewicz, Elk Grove Adult & Community Education

After many years of teaching in secondary education, including six years in the Middle East, Elk Grove Adult and Community Education (EGACE) has been Geno’s professional home for the past five years. For the past three years, he has been teaching courses, using the Career Choices and Changes in EGACE’s bridge-to-post-secondary program, “Career and Academic Preparation” (CAP), Geno demonstrates exceptional skills and knowledge of college and career education through. He is a high-energy and innovative instructor whose passion for teaching and learning keeps his students engaged and moving toward the goal of successful transition into post-secondary education, training, and/or a career. He teaches his students how to explore their options to meet their education, career, and lifestyle goals; develop professional and computer skills; and how to use new financial tools to improve their everyday life. He has presented at various conferences and training and has consulted with several adult education agencies and community colleges around the state to provide resources and support for their college and career readiness programs.

The majority of Geno’s students successfully complete the program, and they have reported back to him that they have enrolled in community college or Sacramento State University and are working toward their goal of earning post-secondary degree; they have obtained jobs working for the state of California, as well as careers for which they trained and/or worked in their native country. They have formed cross-culture support groups while in class, and they continue to support one another even after they have completed the program. One of his students, who was living in a homeless shelter with her two teenaged children during the time she was attending the class, is now living on her own and has started a catering business. Both of her children are now enrolled in a community college in Sacramento. Another former student got a job working at the State Chancellor’s Office. After 18 months of employment, she was twice promoted and receives full health benefits, a full retirement package, and 401K/457 plans.

Geno also works at the Folsom-Cordova Adult School as a transition specialist. In this role he meets with students to assist them as they prepare to move from adult education into post-secondary education, career training, and/or a career.