When Art Gonzales was in high school, he wanted to become a doctor. But he didn’t think he was smart enough. So his dream faded away in time.
He didn’t have any other aspirations and went to community college without a plan. It would be six years before he earned a college degree and eight more years before he started his career.
Now a Student Success Coach with National Lewis University, Gonzales was one of 18 professionals who shared their stories with Mundelein High School students on Oct. 6. The list included a U.S. Marine, a legislative aide and a community college dean of students.
The program highlighted how everyone’s career journey is different and often filled with obstacles. The speakers also had something else in common - they were all Latino. The Hispanic Heritage Career Panel was one way MHS was marking Hispanic Heritage Month which runs through Oct. 15.
“This allows students to have a pool of successful people to reach out to,” said MHS Community Business Coordinator Rosangela Fiore. “I hope to inspire students to follow their dreams - anything is possible despite any obstacles.”
In the past, the program was held in the auditorium and all students could listen. But this year, it was held in a number of classrooms with a couple of speakers in each room. Fiore said the advantage is that it becomes more personal and kids tend to participate more. The disadvantage was that there weren’t enough speakers for every teacher who wanted their class to participate.
Ignacio Mendez, Principal/Tax Department Leader with Miller Cooper & Co. LTD shared the stage in Andrew Hirshman’s freshman World Studies classroom. A graduate of MHS, Mendez wasn’t interested in college at first, despite the urging of a guidance counselor and co-workers at his first job in a factory. He also said many obstacles - even racism - can be overcome with hard work.
Mendez said in his experience instances of racism turned out to be pretty petty and didn’t mean much in the long run.
“If you’re a person who wants to work hard, you’re not really at a disadvantage just because you’re Latino. My clients generally don’t care as long as I perform.”
Sol Cabachuela, Equity and Community Coordinator at MHS said it was amazing for students to see these professionals at the high school and to hear their stories.
“It shows that no matter where you came from, you can totally reach that dream.”