Gonzalez is the brother-in-law of Gavilan trustee Irma Gonzalez, who found the 1967 commencement ceremony program with his name on it while looking through some of her mother-in-law’s keepsakes.
Gonzalez, who now lives in Los Angeles, had not planned to go to college. It wasn’t until a San Benito High School teacher, whose name he cannot recall, convinced him he had what it took and let him know he could get financial help if needed. His instructor’s words were “you are going to college,” Gonzalez recalled.
While at Gavilan, Gonzalez lived in a nearby house with two other male students. Rent was $33 a month, so with the job he had at Tiffany Ford he was able to live away from home. Working closely with his instructors and other students at the airport campus, he put a lot of effort into his academic studies. The support he received from the faculty made it easy, he said.
“They encouraged us and they listened.”
Following Gavilan, Gonzalez attended San Jose State University and majored in industrial studies with hopes of teaching automotive repair after he graduated. He minored in Spanish literature.
But automotive repair was not where he ended up. Soon after graduating, Gonzalez moved to Los Angeles and went to work for a community-based organization called the Los Angeles Opportunities Industrialization Center, where he helped put together curriculum for the body shop program.
After a difficult experience at San Jose State (Gonzalez cited the distance between professors and students), he swore he would never return to college. But since graduating, he went on to earn a masters degree in Spanish literature and a masters in urban teaching with a Coro Foundation Fellowship from Occidental College.
Following this, Gonzalez continued to work in the public and community-based sectors, including the Youth Opportunities Foundation helping underserved youth find a route to college. He has worked for the City of Los Angeles and Los Angeles County on labor employment programs and consulting for reentry programs with the Los Angeles County Department of Corrections.
Gonzalez remembers his time at Gavilan fondly and believes the school has served the community well over the last 100 years. He credits it with giving him an education and the understanding of academics he needed as he went forward with life.
Gavilan College is reaching out to alumni before their 100-year anniversary gala and invites San Benito County residents to look at the attached program for names they might recognize and to let those alumni know there is a party with their name on it on September 7.