A Very Special Where Are They Now?

by AVA News Service, July 8, 2009

 Two sisters who are graduates of Anderson Valley High School- Isidora (Dora) and Claudia Jimenez have come a long way. This summer I encountered both of them working for Jose Delgado in Migrant Education through Americorp as we share an office in the AVHS Career Center.

Claudia has just completed her BA at Mills College studying both Spanish and Psychology. She will return to Mills in the fall to get her teaching credential. She will continue one year beyond this year to earn her Masters degree in Education from Mills.

Claudia told me the story of how this education was made possible. She came to Anderson Valley High School when she was 16 years old. She spoke no English. After the sound foundation provided by her parents a family tragedy prompted Debbie and Tony Sanchez to step in and support the girls as if they were their own children. Claudia told me that the first year in high school she felt that she could not understand anything. Her ESL teacher Jeanne Collins helped when she became frustrated and kept her going. Betsy Taylor her AVID teacher kept her on track for all her college prerequisites and was very encouraging. Kathy Cox prepared her through the rigorous AP Spanish program she established. Then Claudia did a very ambitious senior paper about taking 12 AVHS kids AP Spanish students to a conference under Kim Campbell’s Senior Project Program. Claudia wants to become a teacher and come back to the Anderson Valley. “I love this place and the people.” When Claudia graduated from AVHS she received scholarships including one from Robert Anderson and Nicola Miner to Shasta College a junior college in Redding. This was a very different environment for her with probably a total of 5 Latino students on campus. She said people were kind to her and that she liked it at Shasta. Following JC she got additional scholarships and went to Mills College in Oakland. When she got there she hit a bump in the road when one of the scholarship grantors decided to take back her scholarship and give it to someone else. At this point she could no longer afford to go to Mills an expensive private college. She told her story to Jan Pallazola who urged her to contact Robert Anderson and tell him what happened. She did write to him and his wife Nicola Miner. A miracle happened when they told her that she could stay at Mills if she was happy there and that they were willing to help her financially to complete her education. Dreams do come true. She has only met her benefactor Robert Anderson once when he handed her that first scholarship. These people are making her education possible without asking for anything more in return than her commitment to hard work. Claudia would be very happy to come back to AVHS to teach. She has a special wish to teach Spanish when Kathy Cox retires. It is my considered opinion that were would be very lucky to have her. She is a sunny presence and a focused worker in our office.

Dora Jimenez was 14and a half and went into the 9th grade when she came to the U.S. also with no English. She recently returned from studying in Marseille France at the American University Center of Provence for 4 months under a program co-coordinated by Mills College. She studied International Relations and French as well as Arabic. In association with her Arabic studies she spent 1 week in Morocco, which she loved. She said the culture and poverty reminded her of her own country. These trips were a good start on her goal, “I want to travel around the world” she told me. Her core college program is a double major in Math and International Relations at Mills in Oakland. She told me the classes are small (5-10 people in her math classes) and she likes this very much.

When she first saw a brochure for Mills she threw it in the trash thinking that an all girls school was not for her. Later her teacher at AVHS Julie Honegger a Mills graduate drove her to the campus and gave her the grand tour. After that she was enthusiastic, she knew that she wanted to go to Mills. This is a great example of how one mentor going out of her way can influence an entire educational future. I asked Dora which teachers helped her and she said, “A little bit of all of them.” Special thanks to Jeanne Collins, Betsy Taylor, Kathy Borst, Kathy Cox and of course Debbie Sanchez and Tony Sanchez for their essential support. At graduation she received scholarships from the Anderson Valley Wine Growers, the Redwood Coast Foundation, and Robert Anderson and Nicola Miner. She also has been offered auxiliary support by Robert and Nicola if she needs it.

They are providing a safety net under her education; this must be a very nice feeling.

Dora will be going into her senior year at Mills this fall.

I asked her what kind of work she would like to do Internationally? She told me she likes helping people and that she wants to make money to start a shelter for children in Mexico. She plans to attend Thunderbird College in Arizona after graduation from Mills to study International Relations and Business. She told me they are rated the highest world wide for training in this field of study. I asked her if she plans to return to Anderson Valley and she said those plans are unknown.

Any student in Anderson Valley who has big dreams and is willing to work very hard will find a great deal of support from the community. Clearly these sisters are very motivated and they have bright futures ahead of them. If you are young and have educational ambition you can get lots of good advice from students and faculty about what you need to do to. Hit the ground running and find out what is available as soon as possible when you come into the junior high. Once you know what your opportunities and options are you can make come up with a plan custom made to your specifications.

No more School News until next Fall. Have a great summer. Bye.

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