Skip to main content

Celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month


 

As part of the Associated Student Body (ASB), we wanted to take the time to thank our teachers and staff for their devoted support to Watsonville High School, for their unwavering dedication to our students, especially during these difficult, and uncertain times. Being a Latina/Latino/Latinx staff member at WHS comes with a lot of respect, as they serve as a mentor and a symbol of representation for all of our students. We recognize the importance of their cultural heritage and their work as principals, teachers, and counselors. We wanted to highlight them on our school-wide website and our social media pages during the celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15th - October 15th, 2020). 

    Several of our Latinx staff members shared their stories; some following a few guiding questions and others sharing a personal narrative of theirs. Some also shared pictures of themselves or with their families, pictures that hold immense value to them. 

    Here are the guiding questions for reference:

 

Why do you think it is important to represent your culture as a teacher in a community like Watsonville?

How do you take pride in your culture? How do you overcome the obstacles that come with being a Latina/Latino/Latinx individual?

Did you face any difficulties being of Latina/Latino/Latinx descent while working to become a teacher at the same time?

We recognize that you serve as a mentor for many of our students. Did you have any adults/mentors that guided you in your career?

How do you think your experience as a Latina/Latino/Latinx individual relates to that of our current students’?

Are there any comments or advice you would like to give our Latina/Latino/Latinx students and/or WHS student body in general? 

 

Ms. Magaña¹

“1. Teaching is natural to me. I enjoy conversing with my students and getting to know them beyond our content, building class culture is imminent to having a growth mindset and positive learning environment. As an educator I have a platform I can use to invoke the importance of education as well as our roots. It’s important to showcase my culture because I want to inspire my students to be positive role models in their community and to be proud of where they come from. I can relate to having parents that have worked in AG related jobs and I can relate to having to grow up beyond my years. You can ask people about my personality and they’ll tell you that for a 25 year old I have an old soul. I want to show students that we can and will be successful when we strive to be the best version of ourselves.

 

2. Embracing my culture allows me to build rapport with all my students which allows me to foster positive and brave space environments where they are comfortable to interact in their native tongue and willing to learn without fear of being judged. I love speaking in both English and Spanish languages, Spanish is my native tongue, and I don’t mind that students present in these languages, they just happen to be the ones I know. I’ve had students teach me words in Mixteco, Portugese, ASL, and etcetera -by no means am I an expert in those languages, but it's part of embracing culture. Anyone I’ve taught can attest to our cultural get-togethers as part of embracing who we are as well as my enthusiasm to embrace my roots. An obstacle I’ve always had is that people butcher my name, changing it to ‘Alexandra’ rather than Alejandra or not including the “ñ” in my last name, I don’t even think my students schedule has my last name spelled correctly. As a teen I felt bad correcting people, now I’m adamant that my name is pronounced correctly which is why I make it a big deal to pronounce my students' names correctly or keep asking until I get it right. I don’t want them to feel how I felt whenever someone mispronounced my name. Being proud of who we are starts with our name being utilized correctly and us being acknowledged as humans. Our name is our sense of identity. Latinx culture can be embedded with sexist or machista ideologies. My biggest struggle has been seeing friends and students endure these behaviors, especially when naiveness makes it easy to not recognize when others are lacking empathy and using their privilege to normalize the lack of equity and equality of all genders​.

 

3. This is an interesting question. For me personally my major obstacle has been that I’m sometimes considered too young for having started a career in education or that people interchange other Latinx colleagues' names in exchange for my name. I don’t mind if people think I’m a student, but it’s frustrating to hear people change my name or that of my colleagues because we have Latinx names. Although I sometimes get confused for a student, being a young educator allows me to be more relatable to my students. I enjoy having a platform to inspire students to attain their goals and define success by their definition, especially since I was a student as of Spring 2019 when I graduated with my MA+ in Education and can provide advice on completing assignments efficiently.

 

4. I’m passionate about educating youth. The people that have always driven me to become a better human and educator have been my family, especially my parents who’ve always instilled in me the self confidence to pursue my dreams and be competitive with myself and others. My SJSU and CSUMB professors are the ones that fueled my passion to become a high school teacher. Becoming VP of my SJSU Student Organization in 2017, led to me getting my MA+ in CSUMB which led me to student teaching and eventually teaching at WHS where I have amazing colleagues that motivate me to be a better educator (y’all know who you are ). I can also attribute my dedication to be the educator I am to two teachers I had in middle school who changed my outlook in history and showed me how much fun history is, especially since I found school tedious before they became my teachers.

 

5. Coming from a similar background as my students helps me understand the needs I didn’t receive as a student, therefore I’m willing to go the extra miles for them. Learning should be fun, challenging, but mostly fun, you can ask my World History and Psychology students, who’ll tell you some of our most engaging activities have been equipped with educational competitions and discussions. I want my students to be able to apply content to real life scenarios not just in the classroom. My goal is to equip them with professional skills to be successful and meet their goals whether that is to seek higher education, join the workforce, and etcetera.

 

6. The advice I’d like to share is that “you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” Follow your goals and dreams and if you ever have questions ask for clarification, don’t limit yourself based on what others may think. Remember you define your successes and be proud of how unique you are. You are beautiful, resilient, and intelligent. I hope you have a great school year and I’m sending y’all a virtual hug.

Best, Ms. Magaña

Psychology & World History Instructor”



 

Mr. Pozo¹

“1. Soy maestro de lenguaje y el lenguaje es la sangre de la cultura. Afirmando en la comunidad un bilingüismo culto es como procuramos una sociedad más educada, inteligente y civil. Además, es muy importante que las nuevas generaciones de jóvenes sepan de tantos rasgos culturales que forman la esencia de su identidad. Reconociéndose a sí mismos es como logran obtener una conciencia más amplia del mundo.

 

2. No pensando en qué hay estereotipos en contra de nosotros los latinos es como espantamos el

fantasma del racismo, la discriminacion, y obstáculos que no pocas veces son construidos por

nosotros mismos.

 

Los males sociales se curan alrededor poniendo el buen ejemplo, queriendo ayudar, ofreciendo una mano con una sonrisa y al mismo tiempo, defendiendo con educación y cultura las injusticias sociales. No me gustan las etiquetas, cuando me preguntan de dónde soy es casi siempre irrelevante la respuesta. Que les digo. La infancia que tanto me formo tiene su origen y desarrollo en Mazatlán, mi juventud que reventó mi espíritu rebelde, sobrevivió en el DF ahora Ciudad de México, mi adultos la he compartido entre México y California. Que quieren que les diga? No me pregunten de donde soy, no tiene sentido. Mejor les digo quien soy.

 

3. Es posible, pero siempre he considerado los obstáculos como parte integral de la carrera. Sonrío, platicó, y sigo adelante con lo mío y poniendo lo mejor de mi.

 

4. Si. Mi maestro japonés de karate, que me hizo dos veces campeón nacional. Su ética de trabajo y su respeto por la libertad del prójimo me ha guiado constantemente en mi vida.

 

6. Estudiantes, tienen en su sangre lo mejor de dos culturas, abran las puertas a las dos y ensanchen sus horizontes. Expongan su experiencia a cuanta actividad les ilumine el cuerpo y el espíritu: un deporte, un instrumento musical, una actividad artística, presenciar diferentes maneras de representar el arte, en fin, ábranse al mundo, que tiene derecho a recibir las bondades de ciudadanos decentes e inteligentes como ustedes.

¡Amarre!”

 

Excerpt from one of Mr. Pozo’s auto-biographical novels



 

Dr. Fernandez

“1. It is important to represent my culture as a principal in a community like Watsonville because I am a true reflection of our demographics within our city. I was born and raised in Watsonville and attended local school, including Watsonville High School. I too, had to overcome challenges along the way as I pursued my dream of graduating from the university and being able to come back to my community. Consequently, I feel a great deal of responsibility in being a role model for so many of our students in making the promise come true. With hard work, dedication to the job at hand and the determination whether we win or lose, we CAN attain our goals and make our dream come true!

 

2. I pride in my culture by speaking the language whenever possible and using my bilingualism as a leverage to form and maintain connections with even a larger group of folks. The way I overcome obstacles that come with being a Latina are by connecting and embracing my cultural roots in everything that I do. For example, as the new Principal at WHS, I am always actively seeking ways to embrace our diversity, while deepening our cultural roots. 

 

3. Yes, being a latina female added an extra layer of difficulties as I worked by way through obstacles. Sometimes, the lack of belief in myself and my abilities by others simply because of my race and gender posed a difficulty. However, these same "obstacles" have taken me to where I am today as they furthered fueled by "ganas" (desire) to make the best out of me.

 

4. My greatest mentors were my parents as I took it upon myself to make their dreams a reality through me. I come from hardworking farm worker parents that did not have the same life opportunities that I had (due to their hard work), but who nonetheless always value education as the most important means of making a significant and positive change for oneself as well as for others you serve.

 

5. Absolutely! My upbringing and educational experiences are very similar to the many experiences of our students. Hence, I have an even larger responsibility to ensure that WHS students KNOW that they can make it too, just like I did. 

 

6. Don't give up-it is possible! All of you are our promise students; a promise of a better tomorrow. Success will pay off through hard work, and determination. GO WILDCATZ!!!!

 

Your proud principal,

Dr. Fernandez”



 

Ms. Rodriguez¹

“1.    A community like Watsonville is an incredibly special place because it is not common to have a community which is so strongly connected to the immigrant experience in the way that Watsonville is. Even though I am not originally from this community, it has become an incredibly important place for me as a first generation American, who comes from a family of immigrants. I find it beautiful to be in public in this town and constantly find myself around people who look like me. It is important to represent my culture as a Latinx teacher in this community for two reasons: 1. I wanted to give students (like me) the experience of having a teacher that looks like them and 2. I wanted to be able to represent the Central American community with the larger culture of Latinx people. 

When I was in high school, I lived in a community in which I experienced and observed lots of racism. In the community I grew up in, it was common to hear people speaking negatively about immigrants and negatively about Latinx people who looked like me. While I was still able to have some good teachers, I did not have the privilege of having many teachers of color. In my entire public school experience, I had two teachers of color, both of them being Latinx women. I remember feeling more comfortable in those classes and feeling connected to those teachers because I felt like they understood where I came from. I also really appreciated having those teachers because I knew they had both gone to college and as a first generation college student, it was great to have those role models. When I chose to become a teacher, I knew that I wanted to work in a community just like Watsonville so that I could work with students like me. I also knew I wanted to teach social studies so that I could try my best to incorporate the history of people of color in my class; this is important to me still because as a student in public school, I rarely learned about history of people who looked like me.  

Additionally, it is important to me to be able to represent my specific culture in this community, as I identify as a Latinx teacher but do not strongly identify with being Mexican. My mom is an immigrant from Guatemala and as a Latinx teacher, I think it is cool to represent Latinx culture from a Central American perspective. Growing up, it was not common to meet other Central Americans outside of the people I knew in my family. Often when I was exposed to a Latinx person who could be a role model, they came from a Mexican background. While this was great because even that was uncommon, I always wanted to see Central American role models too. I hope that students from Central America or from a Central American background can connect with me in a different way than my other Latinx students. While all of us who identify as Latinx have things we share in common, I find I share even more in common with my Central American students. Our culture is different, our tamales are different, and we even speak Spanish a little different!

 

2.    I take pride in my culture in many different ways. First and foremost, I believe that brown skin is beautiful, and I work to remind myself of that every single day. I also try my best to remind the younger generations in my family of this too. Often as young people (especially as young women), we are exposed to standards of beauty that often do not represent Latinx people. And when these representations DO represent Latinx people, they are still often incredibly European looking. I think it is so important to acknowledge that us Latinx people come in ALL shapes, sizes, and skin colors, and ALL OF THEM are worth being PROUD of. Additionally, I take pride in my culture by being proud of the things that are often discussed negatively in the media. I am proud of the fact that my family migrated to the United States in search of safety and the American dream. I am proud of the fact that I had to learn English as a second language in school and only spoke Spanish for the first few years of my life. I am proud of the fact that I am the first person in my family to go to college. I am proud of all the hardships my family and I have had to overcome because they each show hard work, determination, and the power of my community in raising each other up. And when asked about my culture, I am proud to share about it with people who are curious to know more about it! While I may have constructive criticism of norms in my own culture (i.e. machismo & racism within our own culture), I am not at all ashamed of who I am as a Latinx woman or where I come from. 

Unfortunately due to the fact that we live in a society that is still trying to figure out that all human beings should be treated as human beings, many of us, especially people of color and women, face daily challenges and obstacles. While there are many to discuss,  I want to focus on one: feeling like people do not believe in you because of your race and gender. When I was in high school, I was a student who was a part of the school marching band, in the school choir, an officer of a school club, and an AP student. I did not know how I was going to go to college, but I knew I wanted to be the first person in my family to make it happen. Even though I faced a devastating loss of a family member my junior year of high school, I was doing everything I knew how to do to accomplish my goal. Despite doing all of that and having good grades, I knew people in the community I grew up in did not believe in me. People (peers and teachers alike) would tell me that I would end up addicted to drugs, I would end up dropping out of college, or that if I did graduate from college that I would be taking someone else’s place (often implying that I would be taking a more deserving “white” person’s spot in college). I even had a teacher tell me during office hours once that I should give up on my dream of going to a 4 year college because she did not think I was smart enough to go to college. She said this despite the fact that I was taking and excelling in the AP class she was teaching. Looking back on this incident, I can acknowledge how incredibly unprofessional that was and how I should have made a complaint to the school administration when she said this to me. I can also look back on this incident and remember how her words ignited a fire within me to prove her wrong. If I ever ran into her as an adult today, I could not only tell her how wrong she was but I could also proudly state how I not only went to college and graduated, but also returned for my Master’s Degree shortly after my first college graduation. 

As a society, we often tell young people they can do anything they set their minds to, or we tell them to believe in themselves. However, the reality is that if you are not around people who believe in you, it becomes really hard to believe in yourself! If you are around people that make you feel like you do not deserve success or make you feel like you are not worthy of accomplishing your dreams, you will slowly start to believe it. It can become easy to convince yourself that you are not good enough. THIS has been the greatest obstacle I have had to overcome: teaching myself to believe in myself AND to surround myself with people who believe in me! As a part of this, I have also had to learn how to identify people that do not believe in me just because of my race and/or my gender. I have had to learn to not take the opinions of these people seriously; when these people look at me, they do not see me as a whole person, and it is not my job to prove myself to them. As a teacher, I hope to be at least one person in the lives of each of my students that makes them feel like someone believes in them. 

 

4.     Throughout life and throughout my career, I have learned so much from so many different people. Looking back, I learned a lot from people who have mentored me but I have also learned a lot from people I did not like working with! Sometimes, it is important to be open to learning from people you do not like working with because it can teach you what you want to avoid doing in your own profession. While I have had many mentors, one that stands out is Dr. Sara Roe, who is currently our English Language Literacy Coach at Watsonville High School. When I was a student teacher at WHS, Dr. Roe was Ms. Roe and taught Government & Economics in Room 3 (currently Ms. Magana’s classroom). 

Of all the mentors I have had, Dr. Roe stands out as an important mentor in my career because she taught me so much about being a confident teacher. She taught me everything I know about being a teacher today but most importantly she showed me how to tap into my potential as a young professional. Sometimes, we would meet to lesson-plan together or to prepare for our students, and Dr. Roe would come up with these crazy ideas of things she wanted us to do in the classroom! At the time they seemed crazy to me because I was still learning the basics of teaching. Everytime I would hesitate or try to convince her to pick something that seemed more manageable for me, she would push me and guide me through it until I eventually would be doing the crazy idea she came up with! Dr. Roe taught me how important it is to push yourself outside of your comfort zone AND taught me that anything is possible when someone truly believes in you because it helps you believe in yourself. She believed in me in the moments I did not believe in myself. She would observe me mess up or make mistakes and always supported me with love and compassion. She taught me how to learn from my mistakes and held my hand when it was hard! Even still, when I am thinking about taking a risk as a teacher I think back to Dr. Roe; if I can envision her believing in my idea or if I share my idea with her and she believes in it, then I know I can believe in myself enough to make it become a reality. I genuinely would not be the teacher I am today without her mentorship and friendship. 

To all the kiddos reading this: DO NOT BE AFRAID TO LET SOMEONE MENTOR YOU. It can be a beautiful experience to learn from someone who is more experienced than you!

 

5.    This question is a little challenging for me to answer because there are so many possible answers that I could give. Generally speaking, I think that my experience as a Latinx individual relates to our current students because we come from similar backgrounds. I relate to my students because they can tell me about some part of their lives and I can often envision it or can relate to it from experiences with my own family. I can also relate to my students because they can be telling me a story about their weekend and easily transition into speaking Spanish, and I will completely follow and understand what they are saying. Most importantly though, I feel like I can relate to our students in the sense that I can remember what it felt like to be a Latinx student in high school and I have lots of compassion for that experience. Even though I am not a part of this particular generation of Latinx students, I can remember what it was like to feel like I had never seen someone accomplish all of the things I wanted to do; I remember how scary and daunting that felt and I feel so much empathy for my students that are in this position.

 

6.     As you continue to grow and make your way through life, never forget where you come from. Life is a beautiful experience but there will be many bumps in the road that make you question your choices or even sometimes make you question who you are. When these moments happen, ground yourself in where you come from. Many of you come from hard working families that have risked everything to come to this country and create a better life for you. Many of you come from parents who were not able to receive a formal education and constantly push you to be a great student because they wish they could have had the opportunities you have. Many of you come from parents who send you to school everyday with the hopes that you will have a better future because they hope that education will open doors for you. Many of you come from families that do not have much luxury, but have strong connections and love within your family. 

    As a Latinx person, you come from a beautiful history of people. Hard work and determination runs through your veins. You come from a history of people who have had to overcome challenges time and time again, and yet push through with the support of community and family. It is no mistake that you are here, on this Earth, in this moment in time, and your ancestors are so proud of you! In the moments you experience doubt, remember where you come from and remember that you have a whole community behind you that wants to see you succeed. Even if you have dreams that you have never seen someone like you accomplish, YOU CAN be the first to make them happen. Speak your dreams into existence and believe in yourself enough to make those dreams come true. Stay strong and remember, SI SE PUEDE!”



 

Ms. Briceno

“1. I think it's important to represent my culture everywhere I go, but especially as a teacher in Watsonville. I grew up in Watsonville and attended PVUSD schools. Truth is, I didn't have many Latinx/Chicanx teachers who spoke Spanish, which made it difficult for my parents to be involved in my education. Because of that, I am openly Mexican American, Chicana, and Spanish speaking. I want my students to know that people who look like them, talk like them, and struggle like them can take up professional spaces too. 

 

2. I take pride in my culture by learning about it and educating others. My freshman year in college, I decided to minor in Mexican American Studies. The more I learned, the more empowered I felt to be Mexican American and identify as Chicana. La cultura cura. 

 

6. Never stop asking questions. Also, "Impostor syndrome is a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their accomplishments or talents and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a 'fraud'." Imposter syndrome is something many Latinx/Chicanx experience during college and after graduating. Don't give in. YOU did this and you deserve this.”



 

Mr. Marmolejo

“1. I have always been a proud Latino, but it is not until I arrived at Watsonville as a teacher that I realized how important it is for me to not only embrace my culture (as I have always done), but to demonstrate my orgullo. I've realized how much of an example I am setting and how important it is that I am uncompromising about who I am and where I come from. It's important to show the Latino/a/x culture that you can rise up and take hold of your future.

 

2. I think one of the greatest ways I take pride in my culture and heritage is through my name. When I was younger (up until two years ago, lol) I would never pronounce my name correctly. My name is Guillermo. It's pronounced "Gee - Jerrr - Moh". I would always butcher it to make it easier for people to say. Recently I decided that the struggle to pronounce my name is not my problem and that I cannot compromise my identity simply so others can enunciate. 

 

3. I think in California we are very lucky that the Latino/a/x culture is so predominant. Approximately 50% of California is Latina/o/x and the rest is so diverse! I feel like when I went to college I was able to get absorbed into the cultural diversity that is California. When becoming a teacher I think that I found my calling in working in communities like Watsonville. I believe that my background makes me a perfect tool for the youth of Watsonville.

 

4. I had one particular teacher in High School that was SUPER hard. He really, really, really pushed me to do better and never accepted anything less. I struggled a lot in his class and did NOT receive an A; but this isn't why I remember him. He showed me that if I applied myself I could accomplish things I never knew I could. It's because of him that I came to be a teacher - I want to be that example to other individuals who may; like I did in High School, be struggling with confidence issues, and be shown that we can do so much more.”



 

Ms. Vega¹

 

“1. Since I work and live in our community of Watsonville, it is important for me to be authentic,

know who I am, know where I came from, represent our culture, take pride in our history,

heritage, culture, traditions as an individual and hopes to serve as a resource to help students.

Our students form 34% of our population in our community, there are our future leaders in our

community and in our world. I genuinely want to see all of our students succeed in life and want

to empower them as others empower me.

 

I can identify with our students since I am a Watsonville High School alumnus, prior migrant

student in our Pajaro Valley Unified School District, immigrant from Michoacán (Mexico), have

been a visitor and tourist to domestic and international travel gaining various perspective of our

culture. I am a person who supports community development in Watsonville and in communities

abroad. It is important to create positive social change in our community, volunteer and support

non-profit organizations. I have personal gratitude to my family for all the support they have

given me. I have learned that where there is a will, there is away. Hard work and determination

are key. I am a person who speaks three languages, who comes from the Purepecha region of

Mexico and is proud how families and prior generations have enriched our community and our

school district.

 

It is vital to empower our students, serve as role models and represent our culture in our

community of Watsonville con orgullo (with pride). As Watsonville High School Alumni Class of 1993, I remember as a young adolescent Father Rojas, Counselor Eva Acosta, Rachel Mayo,

Delia Mendez, Gabriela Gutierrez y Muhs, Cheryl Romo, my parents, siblings, godparents and

family who help contribute to my human development and help shape who I am as a person.

Also having contributed as a muralist as a student to our Watsonville High School Mural titled

Dreams/Sueños which still stands today in our cafeteria under the direction of Guillermo Aranda

made me appreciate the arts and final product of collaboration. Honored and enjoy empowering

our students who will fill our shoes. Our students are our future leaders in our community. I

know each student though hard work and determination will be able to overcome and achieve

their goals in life.

 

2. I take pride in our culture because I understand I come from hardworking people who cultivated the land in the Pajaro Valley. My maternal great-grandfather worked in the Fresno area and my maternal grandfather Jesus Cendejas harvested lettuce as a bracero in the Pajaro Valley and followed “La Corrida¹”; he also marched with Cesar Chavez and my earliest memory was

hearing about the lettuce boycott to provide field workers better wages. My paternal grandfather

Lucio Vega worked the railroad and lived in Southern California. We can always work to

improve our lives. The Declaration of Independence inform us that we should follow “Life,

Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness”.

 

You see, I embrace our culture and incorporate Mexican clothing and enjoy adding a splash of

color as I wear my rebozo, leather color sandals, and handmade jewelry from Mexico. My heart

is filled with joy when I am in the kitchen cooking, learning recipes from my mom who is a

wonderful cook and has knowledge of dishes which have been passed down from several

generations along with delighting in our Mexican food. I enjoy listening and singing our music,

along with dancing, speaking and writing in Spanish and translating when needed. I embrace

and take pride in our culture. I enjoy celebrating both my Mexican American and religious holidays throughout the year. For instance, kicking off by ringing in the New Year, cutting the

Rosca (bread) el Día de los Reyes, Celebrating el Día de La Candelaria, Semana Santa (Holy

Week), 5 de Mayo, Día de Las Madres and Mother’s Day, Memorial Day, Día del Padre, 24 de

Junio, 4 th of July, Día de La Asuncion, Labor Day, 16 de Septiembre, Día de La Raza, Día de La Bandera, Halloween, Día de Los Santos, Día de Los Muertos, Veteran Day’s, Thanksgiving

Day, 12 de Diciembre, 24 de Diciembre and Christmas Day, 31 de Diciembre.

 

Since I love photography, I have been able to capture an array of beautiful moments in life from

both my domestic and international travels to include various regions from Mexico. I have

discovered food, clothing and noticed how interwoven religion is in so many festivities. I

discovered about my Mexican ancestors the Purepechas from the State of Michoacán, Mexico,

learned, visited and photographed this archeological location in Tzintzuntzan. As well as

climbed the Pyramid of the Sun, the Moon and Quetzalcoatl in Teotihuacan knowing the Aztecs

once lived there. I embraced the spectacular view once reaching the top of Chichén Itzá and

Coba and learning that Mayan is still spoken, snorkeled in the Mexican Caribbean water along

with turtles and was captivated by Tulum. I was impressed with Mitla and Monte Alban and

learning about the Zapotecs. Went onto to visit and hiked to the top to enjoy the view of Machu

Picchu and learned about the Incas.

 

3. At a young age, I too worked in the fields picking raspberries as a young girl and teen, this gave me the strong work ethic, I have today. It is important to set the goal with the end in mind. Stay focused and if at first you don’t succeed, get yourself up and try again. My dad always said to pursue your goal and not give up if you hear “no”. Don’t take “no” an answer. Be persistent with your dreams. Keep moving forward. There will always be a different door of opportunity.

Considering working hard every day. I have acquired (3) three Associate degrees from Cabrillo

College, Bachelor of Arts in Human Development with a Specialization in Social Change from

Pacific Oaks College where I wrote a Capstone in Empowering Our Youth in the Pajaro Valley

Unified School District, Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice Management from Union Institute & University and Master of Arts in Leadership from the School of Education from Saint Mary’s College over an eighteen-year period and worked full-time during the day. I attended school in the evening and on the weekends. I have encountered challenges in life and faced situations which guided me where I am today. All the good and bad experiences have led me to this moment and I would not change it for the world. I have enjoyed working full time and

pursuing education. At times, I had to sacrifice my time with family and friends but I knew I

wanted to earn my degrees. My parents expressed their desire to see me graduate with a

master’s degree and “we left Mexico so that you (my siblings and I) could have a life with

opportunities they didn’t have. They were able to see me graduate twice at Cabrillo and at St.

Mary’s in is a moment I will forever cherish.

 

4. As a Latina/Mexican-American/Chicana, I keep believing we can always help one another. I

had mentors and an array of individuals who contributed to my development along my path in

becoming an educator. Beginning with Eva Acosta, my counselor at E.A. Hall and Cabrillo

College who advised in pursuing a higher education. Retired Watsonville Police Chief Manny

Solano and Assistant Director James Howes of Santa Cruz County Career Technical Education

Partnership guided me in pursuing education and teaching credential. Cheryl Romo was my

high school yearbook advisor and always encouraged me to capture stories and the utilization of photography. Dr. Gabriella Gutierrez y Muhs taught me in the importance of learning another

language, travel and planted the seed as the WHS French Club traveled to Paris in the summer

of 1990. She modeled speaking many languages: French, Spanish, English, Portuguese and

German. Another teacher who stands out is Mr. Michael Jones, he was my fourth-grade

teacher at Mac Quiddy School who taught us the importance of language, writing, structure and

hand writing as our class wrote Pen Pals letters to others and encouraged me to join the Safety

Patrol. All these role models help shape who I am today. You see, prior to this roll, I had an

opportunity to serve career in the law enforcement community for over 25 years to include

working for Superior Court of California, District Attorney Office, Police Department assisting our community being part of the Crime Scene Investigation Team, and coordinator/professor for a private university and mentoring 50 students as they obtained a bachelor’s degree in our local

region.

 

5. As a young girl I was the daughter of a cannery worker in 1985, the cannery strike impacted our lives. We were able to see our mother’s and father’s struggle for higher wages and in the end,

they won the strike. Then international policies changed the food processing industry and many

friends and family members moved away. Then in 1989 the Loma Prieta Earthquake struck our

beloved Watsonville High School and I saw how non-profits came to our aid. The National

Guard, Red Cross, FEMA and the Food Bank provided assistance as I became a freshman in

high school . In 1995, our local law enforcement agencies assisted and advised families to

move to safer ground as the Pajaro Floods impacted our community again. On September 11,

2001, I stood working as a legal secretary in the Monterey County District Attorney’s Office and

felt great sadness for our nation as many individuals were lost on this day. All these events have

contributed to my development and I know current events which are impacting us know will add

to our current students and help form them as our future leaders.

 

6. Advise to give to everyone is go forth and pursue your dreams. Protect them like gold. Make your goals reality and once you achieve them, if you don’t like it and it is not what you had imagined then know that it’s okay to change your mind and pursue a new goal or dream in life. Remember, if plan A doesn’t work, pursue Plan B and Plan C. You see, our alphabet has many

letters. So, if plan A, B, and C don’t work out. It’s okay; don’t give up, just go to plan D, E, F, etc.

Also, your education is something nobody can take away from you. Additionally, I once learned at a State Migrant Conference that there is no such thing as “try” because in life you either do it

or not. Go forth and learn new skills. Acquire certificate(s) and or degrees. Support one another or a cause that you are passionate about. Join clubs and organizations. Register to vote and vote on election day. Make a difference at home, help your parents, grandparents, siblings, your community and help others’ need. Achieve whichever dream you have and make what makes you happy because at the end of the day it is your life and nobody else’s. We need you to be prepared to enter our community in job sectors. Gain skills and experience. If you see

something, say something. Remember, you are our future leaders.

 

¹ La Corrida is a term used for the seasonal harvest and the men, women and families to migrate from California, Arizona and Texas to harvest a variety of Crops.”

 

Link to one of Ms. Vega’s collaborative projects in the City Officials of Purépero, Michoacán



 

Mrs. Nunñez¹

"1. Our culture is central to how we develop and grow. As a daughter of Mexican immigrants I will always be grateful to my parents for raising me with our rich Mexican traditions and for teaching me Spanish. I grew up traveling to Michoacan, Mexico and these experiences allowed me to have a shared understanding of our Watsonville families’ values, beliefs and needs. I believe it is important to represent our culture because it allows students to make a connection and it allows us to build trust and rapport.

 

2. I encourage students to embrace their culture and identity. I empower students to respect and appreciate their own culture because growing up I sometimes felt pressured to let go of my Mexican roots in order to fit in. However, my experiences of being an exchange student in Switzerland, Germany, Spain and Costa Rica helped me strengthen my cultural pride as I learned to value the beauty and uniqueness of my culture and heritage. I take pride in the traditions and customs of my culture by expressing my most authentic self. I celebrate my culture by the music I listen to, the amazing food I eat (tacos, pozole, tamales, ceviche), and the values I practice day to day.

 

4. An important adult that guided my career is Ms. Angelica Echevarria. Ms. Echevarria served as my SJSU counseling internship supervisor and she instilled in me the importance of ensuring equitable opportunities for all of our students. She mentored me to understand the important responsibility of advocacy to help bridge student’s curiosity to new experiences and opportunities. Ms. Echevarria continues to serve as my mentor and I feel blessed to collaborate with her as we promote and contribute to a diverse environment that welcomes individuals of different social, gender, and cultural backgrounds because we all have a stake in each other's success.

 

5. Growing up as a migrant student meant we spent most of our time in Watsonville and as the crop harvest ended, we would return to Mexico. As an alumni of Watsonville High School and as a migrant student, I am sensitive to the socio-economic, time constraints, language barriers, and first generation challenges that our families face. 

 

Serving as counselor has given me the opportunity to witness the power of connecting with students due to the similar family backgrounds we share. I am committed to reducing barriers in all students' education and it is my hope that students will find comfort in knowing I was once in their shoes and If I could obtain a master’s degree so can they.

 

 6. Amazing WHS Students,

 

I am dedicated to assisting you access a higher education and I am here to support you academically and personally. The advice I give to you is to surround yourself with people that reflect who you want to be and who encourage you to reach your goals. Please know that every person has a purpose in life and hold on to HOPE. I once read this acronym for Hope and I want to share it with you:

        Hold 

On 

  Pain

  Ends

The definition of Hope varies, however I view Hope as a state of being open to change and the belief that circumstances will improve. Holding on to Hope is my healthy coping strategy to manage adversity as envisioning a better future motivates me to take the steps to move forward with positivity. As we manage the uncertainty of this pandemic, I invite you to look for Hope as it not only helps us manage the difficulty of this present moment, but it helps us move forward and it contributes to our overall well-being.”



 

Mr. Guzman

“By Isaiah Guzman

As a half-Mexican, half-Jewish kid, I remember not fitting in much culturally growing up. The guys in my all-Mexican neighborhood didn’t fully accept me, even though I was born in Guadalajara, spoke Spanish, and one of my great aunts wrote “Besame Mucho,” one of the most-recorded Spanish songs of all time.

The kids in that neighborhood thought I had to crease my jeans, talk like a cholo, and be “down” for the barrio to be Mexican. And my white friends outside the neighborhood, my “all-American, Little League” friends, didn’t think I was fully white. They would say racist things, then when they saw it upset me, would say, “Oh, we don’t mean you. We mean real Mexicans.” I was in cultural purgatory: Not fully in one place or the other.

It wasn’t until I got older and stopped trying to be something I wasn’t that I became proud of my culture, so much so that I now think of myself probably more Mexican American than just American. I always choose Latino or Hispanic or Mexican American when filling out an application or survey. And that has nothing to do with what I wear, how I talk, or where I live. While in college, I received $2,500 from the Hispanic Scholarship Fund for an essay I wrote about what I was overcoming to make something of myself.

I had to deal with the pressure that a lot of kids probably still deal with. I felt like if I got out of my neighborhood, and left my old friends, I would be called “sellout,” or “whitewashed.” Influences were always pulling me backward, or telling me to be ashamed of my culture, and hide it to fit in.

But I was blessed with lots of mentors. Older guys at my church were like father figures to me. They taught me Jesus loved and accepted me exactly as I was: brown, white, whatever. They taught me to serve those in need. Ten years ago, one man took me to San Martin to work with kids at a last-resort school for trouble makers. They were just like the kids I grew up with. I got to see in them how lost I was when I was their age. As a follower of Jesus myself, I want to help younger people find out who they really were made to be. They were meant for greatness.

    I speak Spanish to my 11-month-old daughter now. She’s only a quarter Mexican, technically. My wife is from the Netherlands. But I want my girl to know her culture, and I want her and other youngsters to know that there is no specific way a Latino or Latina or whatever label you want to put on any ethnicity should act. There are so many types of people from any culture. You have to be you. Just be your best you.”



 

Mrs. Baity¹

“I was born and raised in Watsonville, right across the street from the WHS Football field (Geiser Field), on Riverside Drive. My parents were both born in the United States, so I am a second generation Mexican-American.  My father was born in Texas, and had migrated to many labor camps with his family growing up, before settling in Watsonville.  My mother was born in Watsonville and her family worked in the canneries. My parents taught me from a very young age how important education is to a better life. My dad always told me that he wanted me to earn a living by using my intelligence, not “hard labor”. 

 

It's been amazing to be able to relate to students who have lived in Watsonville for most or all of their lives also.  We have a very rich Latinx (Mexican, Mexican-American, Chicano-Latino) heritage here, and I have always been proud of my heritage and my city. When I went away to college in Los Angeles, and played college basketball, most of the players were from big cities (Los Angeles, New York, San Antonio, etc) and they had NO IDEA where Watsonville was! But I was very proud to not only be from Watsonville, but to also be the only Latina on the team my first few years.  There were very few Latina's playing NCAA Division 1Collegiate Women's basketball in the mid-90's, and I was proud to represent my culture. Our team would visit inner-city schools to talk to the kids, and I could see the LatinX little girls light up when they saw me.  And most of the staff/faculty were surprised to see a Latina on the team, and thanked me all the more for coming and being a role model for those little girls.  That's when I knew that it was important for students to see LatinX teachers representing them in leadership roles.  

It wasn't always easy though...prejudice is everywhere. While working at a restaurant in college, I repeatedly had a loyal customer call me "Maria", even after I told him several times on several different occasions, “Maria” wasn't my name, he just smirked...I found another job. I was also asked by several college classmates upon meeting them, if I was a “Chicano-Latino Studies” major.  No, I am a mathematics major...to which I would usually have to “prove” that I wasn’t lying.  It seemed trivial at the time, but I recognize now, that I shouldn’t have had to “prove” my major just because I was Latina.  I was also pulled over several times by the police, after having done nothing wrong, “just to check in”...what?!? These were challenging college experiences for me, but because I have always been proud of who I am, I never let any of that phase me. I had goals that I was pursuing. A life in which I could be independent, and help others do the same. I’m very thankful that I always felt supported by my teachers while I was at WHS as a student. I knew that they believed in me, and I hope that our WHS students know how much the WHS teachers believe in them, today. Just this year, I had a student say to me, “I like that you're from Watsonville, so you know what’s up!” and I LOVE that. Because I always want to be true to where I am from and who I am.  I want our students from WHS to leave with STRENGTH and PRIDE in who they are and where they are from.  I want our students to know all that they can accomplish, despite the challenges they may face in the world...because in the words of Mr. Abel Mejia, “difficult roads lead to beautiful destinations”.”



 

Mr. Maldonado¹

“A boy sat with his mother and counselor in an office on a February morning.  This meeting, the counselor explained, was to inform them today was the boy’s last day of high school.  He was eighteen, behind on credits to graduate and too many truancies.  The school was overcrowded, and he needed to go.  The boy went to each of his classes to sign out; the teachers sorrowfully shook their heads and wished him luck.  In the car on the way home, the mother looked over at her son.  Her voice shook with emotion as she said, “You’ve really done it this time, Rick.” 

 

My path to educational leadership began in a place many others found an ending.  Many years later, that day still stands out clearly in my mind and is part of what spurred my interest in the field of educational counseling.  I lived in the Central Valley for most of my life, both in the rural farm town of Selma and the larger city of Fresno, and my family struggled financially.  Later, I went to university at CSUMB where I volunteered with migrant students who faced very real obstacles to learning.  I realized education was my path out of poverty, and I could make my life's work protecting others who are vulnerable.  These experiences, plus my research on interventions for at-risk youth, have given me deep insight as to the problems facing struggling students.  I was one of them once.

 

As I started working in education, I wanted to help kids that really needed a champion.  That was challenging because I needed to learn about so many things.  I gained experience in  crisis situations with traumatized students; I learned about counseling for both low and high performing students.  At one point, I was the only counselor for four separate school sites, where I worked with all ages of students, from kindergarten through grade twelve.  I learned to meet the needs of the very youngest baby all the way to the most mature young adult. I have learned that in critical times, a leader needs to slow down when everyone else speeds up, and keep myself focused on solving one issue at a time. All this has led me to want to be a principal, because that is how I can help the largest amount of deserving young people.”

    All these Latinx teachers, counselors, and principals are here to support you, they care for you and want the best for you and your future endeavors. They faced similar experiences as you have, they are people who are always willing to share their stories with you. Please feel free to reach out to any of these amazing Latinx individuals, they are the ones who want success for our students.