Bakersfield Adult School
Jessica Alvarado is enjoying a successful career doing what she loves, interpreting for deaf students in the classroom. Her road to success was often circuitous, but the journey always centered on helping others.
As a high school sophomore Jessica had failing grades, missing credits and was a single parent. She dropped out in her junior year; so far behind she could not see herself making up missed work, much less graduating on time. After spending some time as a student at the local continuation school, in 1991, Jessica made her way to Bakersfield Adult School (BAS).
Her plan was to go into the healthcare profession, so she enrolled in the Hospital Health class and completed the class earning an A. While completing the class, Jessica decided she wanted to be a phlebotomist. BAS didn’t offer a class in Phlebotomy so her instructor told her about other options for study. After a few years working in a hospital laboratory drawing blood from patients, she enrolled in Bakersfield College’s Allied Health nursing program.
A chance American Sign Language (ASL) class helped her make a major change in direction and career. Recalls Jessica, "I just fell in love with the [sign] language and I started taking the classes I needed for that. At this time, Bakersfield College wanted to begin an ASL lab, and I was asked to help set it up and run the lab. As part of this process, I also developed the sign language lab manuals which are still in use today."
After completing the ASL classes at Bakersfield College, Jessica started her interpreting career. "My first interpreting assignment was to work with a student at the adult school. At the same time, my children were getting ready to enter high school themselves and a secretary at the adult school, Karen Hargis, told me I should work on getting my high school diploma as motivation for my kids." Mrs. Hargis called Marie Gordon, the director of Independent Study for BAS to get additional information for Jessica. But, Jessica was hesitant about getting back into school. "At this time I was working for PROP (Program for Reaching Optimal Potential, a collaboration between the California Department of Rehabilitation and Kern High School District which was located at the opposite end of the parking lot from the Independent Study building. Every day I would see one of the teachers, Freddie Boyd, and he would badger me about starting on my diploma. Finally, I realized that, even though I had a successful career as an interpreter for deaf students, I still couldn’t check "Yes" in the box for High School Diploma. When I finally got into it, I worked hard and got As and Bs in my classes. Once I received my diploma, I had it turned into a plaque so I could wrap it up and give it to my father for Father’s Day."
Two constants in Jessica’s life are her husband and God. "Without [husband] Gilbert’s support and God’s guiding hand, I’m unsure where I’d be now," she says.
Jessica continues to work with the PROP program helping deaf students learn what they need to become successful themselves. She says a short-term goal is to complete her AA in American Sign Language. Her long-term goal is to become a teacher so she can teach as well as interpret.
"Being able to say ‘yes, I am a high school graduate’ is one of the most gratifying things I experience. I am so glad my kids know they need to stay in school. I didn’t want them to say that they didn’t need a high school diploma because their mother didn’t have one."