North Orange Co. Community College School of Continuing Education
One of eight sons and a native of Michoacan, Mexico, Baltazar Hernandez immigrated to the United States as a teenager. His father had been a migrant farm worker under the Bracero Program, obtaining seasonal permits to work the fields in California. At the end of each season, he would return home to Mexico. Eventually, Beltazar’s father brought his family with him, and they stayed.
Beltazar enrolled in the English as a second language program at the North Orange County Community College District School of Continuing Education's Wilshire Continuing Education Center. The center is located on the campus of Fullerton Community College. Soon after arriving, he met Tommy Thompson, Fire Chief for the city of Fullerton. Tommy became his mentor, and offered a rent free space in his home as long as Baltazar would continue in adult education. He and Tommy worked together delivering a bus safety training program throughout California. Traveling the state was an eye opening experience for Beltazar.
Baltazar attributes most of his academic success to the personalities and communication styles of his teachers. The English fluency of his teachers was most appreciated, and he particularly remembers ESL instructors Andre Ting, and Pauline Rosenthal who would often wear costumes reflecting the holidays of the time to class as an opportunity to teach American history. Baltazar also remembers High School Program instructors Marsha Elliott and Larry McQuiston. Marsha remembers him as a very motivated student who attended almost every hour of the day, both day and evening classes, almost 37 hours a week. She attributes this dedication as the reason Beltazar was able to accomplish so much in so short a time. He arrived in this country speaking no English and within a very short period of time, he not only learned to speak, read and write in English, but also earned a high school diploma.
An effective role model for his fellow students, Beltazar would often speak at Student Orientations praising the ESL program, encouraging his fellow students to keep attending class and advising them on how to be successful English Language learners. In 1997, he was the Student Speaker at the School of Continuing Education's Graduation Ceremony which honors upwards of 250 Adult High School Diploma and Career Certificate graduates each year.
Completing all levels of ESL, Beltazar was at the same time enrolled in the Adult High School Diploma program. Beginning in 1994, he studied to earn a high school diploma, but left in 1997 to begin a window washing business. The business grew to over 200 contracts, and during his absence, he earned a GED, but earning a high school diploma was still a goal he desperately wanted to reach. He returned to school in 2001 and completed the diploma program.
Baltazar applied for US Citizenship and became a US Citizen in May, 2006. He, his wife Anna and their two year old son, Noe, live in a home they recently purchased in Pomona. His parents continue to live in Fullerton with his youngest brother who is 15 and still in high school. His other brothers are now working in California and Texas, mostly in the service industry.