Cecilia AndradeTop of Page

Cecilia Andrade

Rosie Foraker with Natacha Matute

Guadalupe Paramo

Angel G. Lara-Parga

Lorenza Salazar Villanueva

Rick J. Alarcon Sisniegas

Maria Anaya Rodriguez

Sergio Lua

Adriana Carreño

Elmer Trujillo

Kenneth Palle

Karen Rojas

Amado Flores

Ramon Alvarez

Cecilia AndradeTop of Page

What do you get when you mix ice cream, fresh fruit, with a generous disposition; add to that a strong commitment to family and community? The answer is Cecilia Andrade Sequoia District Adult School student and young entrepreneur.

Cecilia comes from a small town in the Mexican State of Michoacán.  The town Tocumbo is famous for its paletas. Cecilia learned the art of making paletas from her father, who learned it from his father. A paleta is a mixture of frozen fruit & ice cream which is served up on a stick, but in Cecilia case its frozen fruit, ice cream and creativity served on a stick and sold from a big blue truck. Her business is called Helados del Triunfo.

In 2015 Cecilia came to the adult school to take ESL classes and has returned to take advantage of the workshops offered by our partner Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center. These Thursday workshops are designed to support and empower the community based entrepreneur. The workshops are conducted in Spanish with the end goal of the creation of sustainable new businesses, new jobs, and the promotion of financial self-sufficiency.

When Cecilia is not in class or in her truck selling her delicious and beautiful paletas you might find her handing out treats at the library or teaching kids how to make ice cream, she told me that cookies and cream is their favorite favor. Did I mention she only uses fresh, healthy ingredients!

So if you see Cecilia and her truck be sure to pick up a few of her delicious treats you will also be using your sweet tooth to build community!

Rocio Foraker (Rosie)Top of Page

Rocio Foraker was bullied as a child because she couldn’t speak English as well as the other children in her neighborhood. “Spanish was my first language and it was a struggle, to fit in,” she said. I am forty six and I am still working on my language skills she smiles. Rocio is quick to laugh, quick to smile and does not hold back her gratitude when it comes to Sequoia District Adult School. “There is no other school I know of that gives you this level of support!” She continued becoming more and more excited as she speaks, “The love and dedication from Soledad at the front door, to the counselors, to the director, to the teachers, to the guy that runs around cleaning everything, the support is amazing!”

“Then there’s Guillermo,” the GED/HiSET examiner. “The very first time I met him he gave me locker number seven! Seven is Rocio’s lucky number! Every time I go in he gives me locker number seven! It’s his way of saying to me everything is going to be alright! It’s the little things. Every one gives you confidence here, Rocio says, from the “you can do it” smiles to the supportive fist bumps from other students. I rave about this place so much, that now my nephew wants to drive all the way over here from Santa Cruz to get his GED,” Rocio told me.

“My family knows what I went through,” Rocio explained, “this is my fourth attempt. Other places it was independent study, work is handed out and students are expected to take it from there! That didn’t work for me. Finally my husband said, “That’s it! You are going to school! He urged me to research online and Sequoia District Adult popped up!

From here Rocio intends to go to Cabrillo College in Aptos, CA beginning with the ACE program (The Academy for College Excellence) and eventually pursue a social service career as an Addiction Counselor.

Guadalupe ParamoTop of Page

Guadalupe Paramo is a thirty-something year old mother of three sons who believes in creating a better life for her children. Guadalupe first came to Sequoia Adult School to learn English when she was just nineteen years old. Since that time she has worked in several different industries, she became a wife and mother and for the past fourteen years Guadalupe has been employed by Safeway and has performed well in every department she worked. “They know they can count on me,” she beams.

What brought Guadalupe back to the Adult School was the desire to get her GED. She would like to become a Teacher’s Assistant and her most important students that she is currently coaching are her three sons. “My sons are the motivation; they work really hard in all that they do! I need to be able to encourage them.” She told me, “I want to continue to be able to help them as they move through their education.” “I want my children to succeed by teaching them to make strong choices,” Guadalupe spoke with conviction.

Getting the GED was an important step in the plan but it wasn’t easy. Guadalupe had to work from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. then go home and get the boys ready for school before she came to class! This schedule put a strain on the family but it was time limited. Guadalupe credits her husband and her sons for having an understanding attitude during this stressful period.
She also is very grateful to the teachers at the Adult School particularly Sandra Sharp who is dedicated to the success of each student!

It struck me that Guadalupe’s words epitomize the learning outcomes that we have hanging in each classroom throughout the school. Give them a read sometime. Particularly the second which reads, Students will develop the skills needed to succeed in school and/or help their children succeed in school.

Guadalupe intends to apply for a scholarship from Sequoia Adult School Scholars to help her attend Cañada College. We are certain she will succeed in her studies!

Angel G. Lara-PargaTop of Page

Meet Angel G. Lara-Parga. He is the first High School Diploma student to graduate from our satellite campus located at Redwood High School and we are very proud of him!

Angel was born in Palo Alto, but has lived all of his life, all eighteen years of it, in Redwood City. Since age seven he has been raised by his mom as a single parent. “Life has been hard,” he said. His mother always motivated him to do well in school. Angel was active in the Boys and Girls Club which was located next to Hoover School, the school he attended from kindergarten to eighth grade. The Boys and Girls Club offered a variety of summer camps and workshops that Angel participated in: Aim High, Science Camp, Camp Galileo, and College Bound, a program sponsored by Cañada College to prepare students for college. Upon completion of College Bound each student was given a stipend of one hundred dollars, a small fortune to a thirteen year old student.

Angel is a very motivated young man with a variety of interests such as science, astronomy and sports. His primary goal is to become a physical therapist and work in the field of sports medicine. Initially, he will enroll in the Foothill College Athletic Injury Care program before transferring to a four-year university.

At home, Angel is a model big brother offering encouragement, help with homework, and some simple advice; “stay in school.” To others who might be considering dropping out he says; “Don’t give up. Don’t take the easy way out; in the long run it won’t give you the future you want for yourself. Everything you put in will be worth it.”

Lorenza SalazarTop of Page

Lorenza Salazar spent eighteen months on a waiting list to get into Alicia Perez’s Spanish GED Class. She called the front office at least once a week to check her status on list. Her work space at home was already prepared. The small table was set up with the calculator ready and the chair set just so; a study method she learned from her father who was a teacher. Now all she needed was a place in the class.

Her patience paid off and in December of 2014 she landed a spot in Alicia’s class. She set a goal of getting her GED in only six months! Drum roll please…… She just completed her GED! This was no small achievement for this single mother who has been dealing with diabetes for the past ten years. “I tell people never stop, you can do it,” she stated with pride. And, she shared her secret to success, “After class I would spend forty-five minutes studying with my book and on my day off I would go to the Redwood City Library and use the online resources for 3 to 4 hours.“

“You need people around you supporting your efforts,” Lorenza explained. She mentioned how essential the emotional support of her daughter was to her success. She is extremely grateful to Natacha Matute, the adult school counselor. ”Natacha would call me and email me to make sure I was doing okay. I really needed that support,” Lorenza told me.

Now it’s on to a Bachelor’s degree!

Rick J. Alarcon SisniegasTop of Page

Rick J. Alarcon Sisniegas is a young man from Perú. After graduating from high school in 2009, he worked in his family’s restaurant while waiting to take his college exams. He was disappointed that he did not get into the college of his choice and spent a year at another school. In 2013 when the opportunity arose, for him and his mom to come to the United States, he jumped at the chance.

Upon his arrival in the U.S., Rick felt very intimidated. “You don’t know where to go or what to do,” he explained. He went on to say, “It’s pretty impossible to find a job without English language skills.” He was grateful to discover Sequoia District Adult School so he could continue his English as a Second Language studies. At the adult school, Rick met Melissa Martinez, College Transition Advisor. She provided the assistance he needed to continue his education, including access to scholarships from the Sequoia Adult School Scholars foundation which provided financial assistance for textbooks and transportation.

In Fall 2014, Rick focused his studies on Math and English. He recently earned the Preparation for Academic Scholarship and Success (PASS) Certificate from Cañada College and was awarded a Cañada scholarship. Rick plans to transfer to a four year university in Fall 2015.

Rick is a hard working student and his goal is to earn a Bachelor's Degree in Economics. As a matter fact, he often works so much that his mother needs to remind him to go out with his friends and have some fun; to which he replies, “No mom, I have to achieve my goals!”

Rick is a wonderful real-life example of Abraham Lincoln’s statement, “The best way to predict the future is to create it.”

Maria Anaya Rodriguez:Top of Page

Maria Anaya Rodriguez came from El Salvador in 2009. She credits Sequoia District Adult School in helping her to be successful. “Here at this school I found a connection to community. You find everything you need at this school. When you are recently arrived you don’t know where to go for anything, how to talk to a doctor or find other services. I found all this and more at the Adult School,” she said.

Prior to coming to the U.S., Maria worked at a hi-tech company as executive assistant for 26 years in El Salvador. But moving to the United States meant starting all over again, beginning with learning a new language. Maria remembers, “I came to Sequoia Adult School to learn English. On my first trips to the school, I rode my bicycle because I did not want to drive without a license!” She smiled and continued, “It is a good way to learn my way around.” And learn her way around she did. After completing her ESL classes at the adult school, she transitioned to Cañada College where she completed her ESL courses.

Maria then made it her goal to earn the Cañada College Certificate of Achievement- Preparation for Academic Scholarship and Success (PASS); she has already earned two of the four certificates in Office Administration. Ultimately her goal is to capture a Certificate of Achievement in Bookkeeping. Additionally, Maria was awarded her U.S. Citizenship in Spring 2015 and she developed her own method for studying for the exam!

Maria expresses her love of learning as well as her gratitude to those who helped her along the way. Maria is well aware that without organizations such as Sequoia District Adult School, Sequoia Adult School Scholars, and Cañada College her goal of becoming an accountant would be a distant dream. She was quick to single out the counselors who played, and continue to play, a significant role in guiding her scholastic life. She wishes to acknowledge Diana Espinoza Osuna and Sandra Mendez for their assistance and guidance. Her advice to others is, “Follow your dreams and never give up!”

Sergio Lua:Top of Page

Sergio Lua looks back on being a student at Sequoia Adult School with fond memories. Sergio says, “If it wasn’t for Sequoia Adult School, I wouldn’t be where I am today.” So where is Sergio Lau today? In May 2015, he graduated summa cum laude from Notre Dame de Namur University in Belmont, CA with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and he has recently been accepted to the University of San Francisco’s Master’s Program in family therapy.

In 2004 when Sergio began his classes at Sequoia Adult School his goal was to study English and return to Mexico with English in his toolbox of skills. While at the adult school, staff recommended that he also take his GED. After completing his ESL classes and earning his GED fate intervened. Sergio was involved in a bad car accident that prevented him from returning to Mexico. When he had recuperated, Sergio with the encouragement of a family friend and a supportive spouse enrolled in Cañada College. He would later transfer to the College of San Mateo before enrolling in Notre Dame de Namur University.

The biggest challenge Sergio had to overcome was being able to believe in his own abilities. “I thought it was only a dream, a dream that you saw on television.” Sergio said when he spoke of graduating from college and was describing the students throwing their caps in the air. A major motivating influence for Sergio was the fact that other people believe so strongly in his ability to achieve success, from the supportive staff at the Sequoia Adult School to his wife, and to his family friend. “And the funny thing was, after all those years of dreaming about it, I never threw my cap in the air!” Sergio said with a smile.

Kenneth Palle:Top of Page

Sequoia Adult School Scholar recipient Kenneth Palle was selected to be the keynote student speaker at the 40th anniversary celebration of Los Mandatos College in Pittsburgh, CA. Kenneth is an excellent example of a tenacious student. When 16-year-old Kenneth Palle immigrated to the US from Cameroon, he was all set to start high school. But his counselor at Menlo Atherton High School told him that, given the number of credits he would need to graduate, he should work towards a GED instead of a high school diploma.

Kenneth then enrolled in Sequoia District Adult School, where he took GED preparation classes and passed the GED exam only six months later. His next step was Cañada College, where he took introductory classes in 2012-13 in math, biology, political science, and economics. His SASS scholarship paid for hundreds of dollars in textbooks.

In September, 2013, Kenneth Palle moved to Pittsburg, CA where he enrolled in Los Medanos College and continues to receive a SASS scholarship. SASS’s policy of supporting recipients when they move outside of San Mateo County has been a lifesaver. “Without money for books, I couldn’t continue my education,” Palle says.

Kenneth Palle continues his studies at Los Medanos College in Pittsburgh, CA.

Karen Rojas:Top of Page

Dean’s list student Karen Rojas is well on her way to becoming the first SASS recipient to earn a certificate in medical assisting.

Karen came to the U.S. when she was 19 and hit the ground running, working full time as a supermarket cashier, taking an ESL class at Sequoia District Adult School, and caring for her two younger brothers.

Karen transferred to Cañada College and completed all of her required ESL classes in 2013. Now, her focus is on classes required for her certificate as an administrative medical assistant, which she is scheduled to receive in June. After that, she plans to get a job in her new field while taking the additional medical assisting classes she needs to work directly with patients.

Ramon Alvarez:Top of Page

Ramon Alvarez came to this country when he was 16. He’d had eight years of schooling in Mexico and knew no English. Like many immigrants, he came here so that he could send money back to his family in Mexico.

Soon after Ramon arrived, he landed a job working for $8.25 an hour as a dishwasher. Now, ten years later, he’s a sous chef with a salary of $36,000 a year plus benefits.

Ramon attributes his success to the ESL classes and computer classes he started taking three years ago, first at Sequoia District Adult School and then at Cañada College. All of Ramon’s college textbooks and parking passes were paid for by SASS scholarships.

“I use English every day,” Ramon says. “I need to talk to the waiters and talk to the managers. I also need to use the computer to order food, take inventory, and send emails. I learned those skills at the Sequoia District Adult School and then Cañada College.”

Due to the stresses of his new job—he has to commute from Redwood City to San Francisco—as well as family problems, Ramon had to stop taking classes mid-semester, but plans to return to college once his life settles down. Not surprisingly, his goal is to be a chef.

Elmer Trujillo:Top of Page

Elmer Trujillo came to the United States to improve his economic situation. He knew that in order to achieve his goals, he must learn English. He explained that learning English in Guatemala is very expensive. While it is taught in school, it is very basic.

When you first meet Elmer, you are struck by his openness and friendly manner. This demeanor must have served him well when he walked into the Rangoon Ruby Burmese Restaurant and asked the hostess, (in Spanish) if they needed a dishwasher. He filled out an application and was hired on the spot! Shortly thereafter, three days a week quickly turned into six days a week.

Elmer speaks with pride when he describes his ESL teacher and how much he enjoys his class, “She is strict in her ways but it pushes me to do better,” he said. He went on to tell a story that is an example of his dedication to his success. Elmer got home from work one morning at 2 a.m. He knew he had an English test in just a few hours and he really wanted to improve his score. (On his first test he had received a D. He was very disappointed in himself, but he continued to study and work hard so that on his next test he raised his grade to a C.) That night, although he was tired from a long shift, he stayed up to study. The next morning he took his test and continued his upward trend with a B grade.

Elmer is a great example of the Abraham Lincoln quote, “The best way to predict the future is to create it.” Elmer is doing a fine job of predicting his future; he intends to attend college and study Business Administration so that he can use his business skills to provide service to others. He says, “With dedication and perseverance one can be somebody.”

Adriana Carreño:Top of Page

In her home country of Mexico, Adriana wasn’t able to finish school. It wasn’t until she came to Sequoia Adult School that everything fell into place and she was inspired to continue her education. She said, “I felt comfortable from the moment I arrived, when I was greeted by the custodian and told I was in the right place.”

“Everyone in this school is so nice and helpful,” Adriana commented. The Adult School was quite a change from Adriana’s life two and a half years ago when she and her son found themselves facing down a gunman in a Redwood City coffee shop, a gun pointed at Adriana’s son’s head. “I need money now,” the gunman shouted. Adriana covered her son with her body. The other customers threw money at the assailant and he fled. Soon after recovering from this event, Adriana enrolled in the Adult School.

It was a relief for Adriana to experience such kindness and meet such helpful people at the Adult School. She commented, “People take the time because they care about you. Briana, Melissa, Soledad and my teacher, Jim, I feel connected to them.” She beamed as she explained that her teacher would repeat and gesture and repeat until he was sure she understood.

Adriana explained, “The Adult School is two blocks from my son’s school. I can take class here and then volunteer at my son’s school. [Head Start Program at Saint Anthony’s Church].” The teachers at the Head Start program noticed how well Adriana worked with the children whether teaching art classes, managing the playground, or helping the children get along. They encouraged her to study Early Childhood Education.

Adriana sought guidance from Melissa, the Adult School’s College Information Specialist, who arranged for her to receive a Sequoia Adult School Scholars scholarship which would pay for her books and helped Adriana to enroll in Cañada College Early Childhood Education classes.

Hearing Adriana’s story, it’s easy to be reminded of the 1967 John Lennon and Paul McCartney classic, With a Little Help from My Friends. In Adriana’s case, her Adult School friends helped transform her life.

Amado Flores:Top of Page

Four years ago, Amado Flores was taking ESL classes at Sequoia Adult School. Now he works as a Program Associate in the Adult School’s GED program. Amado’s goal is to be a civil engineer. Soon after he came in the US, Amado found a minimum wage job at a Mexican restaurant. He also took ESL classes, first at Sequoia Adult School, then at Cañada College.

Amado completed the ESL sequence at Cañada in a year. Now he is taking classes in math, engineering, physics, history, and sociology. He is on track to receive an Associate of Science degree in engineering from Cañada College in June and then transfer to a four-year university.

While studying at Canada College, Amado has been helped by a scholarship from Sequoia Adult School Scholars. that paid for his books and transportation to college. “What is amazing to me about this country is that there are people here who are willing to help people they don’t know, without judging them, without saying, ‘Oh, you are undocumented. Oh, you are Mexican. Oh, you are too old to go to school’.” Amado says, “Thanks to these people, I have been able to achieve what I didn’t believe I could achieve.”