During the gathering, members of host organizations the Mexican American Committee on Education, the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) and the Latino Coalition of San Benito County expressed their excitement to have Ochoa join the district.
In his speech, which began in Spanish, Ochoa said the community needs to help each other in order for everyone to succeed. He also said one of his goals is to inspire teachers and provide them with the tools to bring out their passion, which in turn will expose the student’s passion. He is expected to start his new position as HSD Superintendent on Feb. 8.
Attendees said it was beneficial to have a leader who could relate through his experiences to the students who feel they can’t succeed.
Mariaelena “Nena” Sanchez said she remembers when she was in school and was not allowed to speak in Spanish, being told “you’re not in Mexico.” She said she feels like her great-grandchildren, who will soon start school, will be in good hands.
“I feel honor that we do have a Latino there, that can speak to them and help them,” Sanchez said of students who struggle with English. “Because a lot of times they feel like they are not smart enough and that’s [why] we have a lot of dropouts or kids don’t get involved with other kids because sometimes they feel they are not part of the community.”
Isabel Horta, a mother of three children ages nine, 11 and 18, said parents needed a Spanish-speaking superintendent because they have had difficulties communicating with school leaders and relied on interpreters to overcome the language barrier.
“I’m happy,” Horta said. “That’s what we need. We need someone who can understand both the parents and students.”
Among the speakers were members of LULAC young adults and youth groups.
“In Salinas we’re actually very happy that we have a Latino in our district finally representing us,” said Elizabeth Zepeda of LULAC Young Adults. “I’m here because of my community and also because of my baby nephew and eventually my children and the children in our communities.”
Ochoa received gifts like a shirt, a pouch that read “you rock” and a magnet stating “never forget you are one of a kind,” from different speakers including LULAC Vice President and San Benito County Superintendent of Schools Krystal Lomanto.
“As LULAC members we are here to support you 100 percent in your journey and we’re excited to be here for you,” Lomanto said.
Hollister School District trustee Carla Torres-De Luna shared a little of Ochoa’s background, saying she wanted the public to know the person as well as the superintendent. She spoke of Ochoa growing up and constantly moving with his family following his father, who was incarcerated in different places.
She also said it was important to have a superintendent who was bilingual and who “looks like the population of the students we serve.” According to DataUSA, Hollister is composed of 24,688 (66.9 percent) Hispanic residents.
“We need you to succeed so that our kids can succeed,” Torres-De Luna said.
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