Student Success Stories

Student Spotlight: Raymond Lopez

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.


STUDENT SPOTLIGHT: ALEJANDRA GOMEZ

Alejandra Gomez is in the HSE program studying for the HiSET exam. She is a 1st year student and a mother of 4 children--ranging from adult to young. After she gets her diploma, she plans to pursue a career in Social Work. 


STUDENT SPOTLIGHT: SERGIO CORONEL

Sergio Coronel was involved with a notorious street gang and was twice incarcerated as a teenager. Growing up, he had been told by his teachers that he would never be able to graduate from high school. He was behind in credits and struggling in the English language.  He witnessed a horrific incident at age 18 and decided to return to school. When he arrived at Sanger Adult School everything changed. Even though he was afraid and embarrassed, the instructors gave him hope. They encouraged him to read and pursue education.

He graduated from Sanger Adult School and Reedley College. He is now attending CSU Fresno and is double majoring in Criminal Justice and History. He hopes to work in the criminal justice system where he can mentor other young men and women who are struggling. He also wants to be a published researcher.


Student Spotlight: Norma Tellez

Norma Tellez has always envisioned having a career in law enforcement. She wants to be a positive role model by helping and protecting the people of her community. When Norma first moved to the United States at the age of 16, this career path seemed like it would always be just a dream. She had no friends or family in this country and had to figure out how to support herself without understanding English or having papers to legally work. At the age of 19, she had her son and knew it was time to get educated.
 
Despite seemingly insurmountable odds, there was a fire in Norma that always made her move forward to work toward improving her situation. She enrolled at Ford Park Adult School to learn English, though with work and a young child, attending class was challenging at times. Once her son was old enough for school, she began attending full time and completed all six levels of ESL. From there, she transferred into the High School Diploma Program.
 
Because Norma was undocumented, she had many jobs in which she was taken advantage of, underpaid, and poorly treated. She endured these hardships because she needed to put food on the table and a roof over her son's head. Norma has an amazing spirit and used these experiences to fuel her desire to improve her small family's life. She knew that education was the key.
 
Because of her work schedule, Norma could only attend her high school classes at night. Not having anyone to watch her son, she brought him with her. He became a fixture in class, doing his homework alongside his mother and going to sleep under her desk when he grew tired. Seeing Norma and her son together was inspiring. They were truly a team. She would explain to him that while times were hard now, they were temporary, and if they could just work together and help each other, she would make a better life for them.
 
With tremendous dedication, Norma completed all of her credits and in June 2016 graduated from high school at the top of her class. Her intelligence, positive attitude, and hard work didn't go unnoticed. Norma received the Henke Family Trust Scholarship, the biggest scholarship awarded by Montebello Community Adult School, in order to further her education.
 
Shortly after receiving her high school diploma, Norma achieved another milestone in her life. She obtained her work permit in the United States. Able to work legally and armed with her diploma, Norma quickly received an entry-level job with growth potential at a local company. She then enrolled in the Protective Services program at Ford Park Adult School, which she has since completed with glowing recommendations from her teachers. With this new certification, after completing six months with her current job, she will have the opportunity to transfer into the security department which will offer a livable wage, benefits, and a retirement package.   In addition, Norma has applied with the Sheriff's Department and passed her written test. With perseverance, passion, and determination, Norma Tellez proves that dreams can become reality!


Elsa Martinez
San Bernardino Adult School

Elsa Martinez, Bilingual Clerk II - A Shining Success from the Southern Section

In 2009, when the recession hit hard, everyone in the working world was touched by it. This was definitely the case for Elsa Martinez. Providing the main source of income for her husband and 2 children, she had worked long and hard hours at a steel construction company, until 2009 found her laid off as the company was forced to shut its doors, due to the economy.

Elsa suddenly found herself with no income, and as luck would have it, she was also pregnant with her third child, a daughter. Not knowing what to do and not being sure where she could find work, she stayed at home and went about the business of raising a family and struggling to make ends meet. It was a very difficult time for their family, but it did offer plenty of time for Elsa to think about what she needed to do to make sure that they never ended up in this situation again. She decided to go to school and develop some new skills. She enrolled at the San Bernardino Adult School, in the Keyboarding, Microsoft Office, Business Skills, Excel, Word, and QuickBooks classes, where she poured everything she had into her studies. Her goal was to earn certificates in both Office Assistant, and Accounting Clerk, but while she was going to school and pressing forward, life at home was becoming more and more stressful due to the lack of finances. She knew a decision had to be made. 

One of the teachers at the Adult School had told the class that Amazon was just settling into San Bernardino and was looking to hire 700 workers. She knew she needed that job but was also torn about giving up her educational pursuits. She confided in one of her teachers that she was truly struggling with knowing what to do. Her family needed that income, and she really didn't want to leave school for fear of not being able to return. The teacher encouraged her to do what was best for herself and for her family and that the school would be waiting when she was ready to return. So she said good bye and went to work at Amazon.

With her computer skills, she quickly advanced to a position of "Problem Solving," making a nice wage, with good benefits. She remained at Amazon for 3 years and got everything at home back in balance. Not being one to rest on her accomplishments for long, Elsa began placing applications and resumes at various other places. In her heart, she said she always hoped she could work for a school. While job searching in the mornings, she continued her Amazon job at night. She laughingly said she believes she slept through her first two or three morning job interviews, but then one day, she received a call to interview for San Bernardino City Schools. As tired as she was, she nearly blew it off, but something inside her told her to go, so she did.

This time she was at least mostly awake as she answered the various questions about skills, character decisions, etc., and then the interviewer said the magic words, "If you were to be hired, you would be working at the San Bernardino Adult School", at which point, Elsa became wide awake and completely focused. She exclaimed with great joy and pride, "I love the Adult School, I got all my training at the Adult School!" Needless to say, the interviewing principal was happy to see an alumnus so excited about the possibility of returning to the school as an employee. Elsa was hired as a Bi-Lingual Clerk II. She is currently working in the assessment and data collections office and has gone on to earn her certificate in GED test proctoring. She credits her teachers and the staff at the adult school for having the insight to know what she needed and to directing her path by making her feel as though she would always have a home at the school. Elsa says she truly believes that God's will brought her to the Adult School. We are all blessed that He did.


Michael Gonzaga
Fremont ADult and continuing education

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.


Leslie Constanza
Abram Friedman Occupational Center

Abram Friedman Occupational Center's Pharmacy Technician Student, Leslie Constanza is at the corner of "happy & healthy."

When Graham Brown, Health Systems Manager, at "Community, A Walgreens Pharmacy" was looking for a new Pharmacy Technician at his Specialty Compounding Store, he contacted Ms. Leslie Acuña, the Pharmacy Technician Instructor, at Abram Friedman Occupational Center (AFOC). Ms. Acuña chose to offer an Externship (hands-on training in a pharmacy) to Leslie Constanza, a very bright and detail-orientated student. During the Externship, Ms. Constanza performed impressively and was offered a full-time position. She is now a California State Board of Pharmacy, Licensed Walgreens Pharmacy Technician and Nationally Certified with the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB).
 
"Community, A Walgreens Pharmacy" is the only Walgreens Compounding Pharmacy in California. They are different from other pharmacies (including other Walgreens Pharmacies) because they cater to a variety of specialty diseases, such as chemo for the young patients at Children's Hospital. They specialize in dosage forms; and in creating suspensions, suppositories, creams/ointments, and capsules that are not prefabricated; and they provide health testing services.
 
What makes Leslie's story so special is that she was hired for a position that is rare and unique and is an unparalleled learning opportunity for advancement in her career. This opportunity was equivalent to winning the Pharmacy Technician lottery. Less than 1% of students are even considered for a position like this because of the skill level that is required. Mr. Brown said, "I chose Leslie because she is extremely bright and showed a will to work hard and learn her craft. She went above and beyond any tasks that were given to her to complete."
 
Leslie Constanza enrolled in AFOC, focused on education and opportunity. She wanted a career where she would be able to work in the medical field, contributing her passion to ensure patient health and safety. AFOC wishes Leslie a long and successful career.
 
The Career Technical Education program at AFOC provides competency-based and academically-integrated career training. Check out our website for other training programs:www.abramfriedmanoc.org


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!"


Fatima and Genova Hernandez
San Bernardino Adult School

Every journey starts with a simple step. For many that simple step can be one full of hesitation and anxiety. That is exactly how two sisters from Mexico, Fatima and Genova Hernandez, felt upon embarking on their educational journey at San Bernardino Adult School, in fall of 2013. Their goal was to improve their English enough to be able to find employment in the community. Now, almost two years after first setting foot in adult school, Fatima and Genova Hernandez have passed all four subject matter GED exams in English!
 
"We wanted to learn English. That's all," is what both sisters replied on their thoughts back to the fall of 2013 as they registered at San Bernardino Adult, "We wanted the GED but didn't know we could do it."
 
Their remarkable success story includes one of much dedication and endurance, as well as mutual support. Both Fatima and Genova live approximately 20 miles north of San Bernardino Adult School, in the City of Twin Peaks. For those who do not know the area, the city's location is known for its wilderness amongst the San Bernardino National Forest. The drive down and up the hill must be taken with much precaution. Despite the inclement weather that Twin Peaks and Lake Arrowhead are famously known for, this difficulty did not stop Fatima and Genova from attending class on a regular basis.
 
Initially, Fatima and Genova scored into the ESL Intermediate I course at the school. After completing the course they progressed onto Intermediate II. Eighteen months after their enrollment, the two sisters found themselves successfully graduating from the ESL program at San Bernardino Adult School. At this moment and in mutual agreement to keep supporting each other, both Fatima and Genova enrolled in the ABE for ESL Students course.
 
The ABE for ESL Students course at San Bernardino Adult School has the main objective of preparing students who have successfully graduated from the ESL program for success in GED preparation courses. As Fatima and Genova demonstrated to have enough understanding of the English language in the ABE class, Mrs. Rosa Leon Blanco, with encouragement and reassurance that much academic support would be available (tutors, extra resources and practices), promoted Fatima and Genova to the GED Test Preparation evening course with Mr. Oscar Lara. In this course, the two sisters studied side by side with other fellow ESL graduates as well as native speakers of the English language--all of whom had in common the aspiration, motivation, and mind set of passing the four components of the GED exam.
 
On May 29, 2015, at 6pm, Fatima Hernandez and Genova Hernandez, in company of their parents, family members, friends, classmates, and teachers, received the General Education Development (GED) Diploma!

Furthermore, with the help of the San Bernardino Adult School's College Transition Program, Fatima and Genova are ecstatically anticipating starting college in winter.
 
One little step does make all the difference!