What are you proud of?
I am proud of my 37 years in education. I graduated from Loyola University with a degree in Psychology in 1975 and earned my elementary teaching credential soon afterwards. While teaching grades 3 to 6 in LAUSD and the Lennox School District, I returned to my Psychology roots and completed my M.A. in Counseling and my PPS credential at LMU in 1980. I served as a 7-8 grade counselor at Felton Junior High School in Lennox for four years and then moved on to the roles of elementary Assistant Principal, elementary Principal, middle school Principal, and Assistant Superintendent of Administrative Services, all in the Lennox School District. Working in Lennox for 35 years allowed me to put into action the social justice foundation that I learned at LMU. Lennox is an extremely low socio-economic community, with a 93% "port of entry" immigrant population. My foundation as a counselor was put to use throughout my administrative career since school leadership requires strong communication and connections, especially with populations who are struggling with language, economic issues, and trust. Being part of the Lennox community was an avocation for those of us, many of whom were LMU grads, lucky enough to work there.
What motivates you?
Paying it forward. I have been very fortunate. My parents, farm kids from the depression, knew that education was the key to a better life. Despite their incomplete formal education, they instilled that value in my siblings and me as they worked to put us all through Catholic schools. I was fortunate to receive a scholarship to Loyola University and it changed my life. The quality people whom I met at LMU, both staff and students, continue to be my friends and "family" to this day. Having grown up in a migrant community in Oxnard, being lucky enough to be hired in Lennox felt like going home. The relationship that LMU built with Lennox over the years enhanced my devotion to both the Lennox community and LMU's mission. That relationship has led to many Lennox students coming full circle, attending LMU and returning to teach and lead the community of Lennox.
How has your work made an impact on your community?
Lennox is an unincorporated community in LA County, without any City Council and is, basically, devoid of a political power base, thus leading to a dearth of community services. However, the Lennox School District has been a safe haven for students and their families for almost 40 years. Understanding that communication was THE most important issue, new leadership in 1976 began to hire young, bilingual staff who were able to build a trusting relationship with the immigrant community. Soon the district was being recognized nationally for its bilingual program. The schools, despite the socio-economic struggles of the community, were safe and modern facilities, and the district soon became a model that other struggling urban districts sought to emulate. I was one of hundreds of staff who helped, on a daily basis, to build that reputation. But, because the Lennox "family" was all moving in the same direction, we were able put the community of Lennox, and the Lennox School District, on the map!