Tri-Cities Regional Occupation Program
"I went to college directly out of high school," Andrea Rodriguez Elizalde begins her story, "My parent/grand-father died of cancer when I was 21 and this rocked my world, dismantling my foundation. I became disoriented and lost my direction. So, I managed to complete all but two courses for a degree and then wandered off onto secretarial-type jobs, having typing andgeneral office skills."
In 1978, still single, Andrea became a mother. She stayed home with her daughter for a year, before retuning to work as a truck drive for UPS. Working for UPS put her in the position to be able to buy her own home at 28. It was a time when few women, particularly single mothers, were able to purchase a home on their own. She was also able to complete the remaining two college course she needed for a Bachelor's degree, California State University - Los Angeles in 1982.
An injury forced Andrea to leave UPS, and she decided to pursue a career as a real estate agent. Things were going well for Andrea over the next several years. Besides her own home, she owned a rental property. Then the real estate slump of the 1990s hit. She was forced to declare bankruptcy, and persevered though several court petitions after filing Chapter 13, showing her determination to keep from losing her investment property. She knew that if she quit it would be very difficult, at her age and as a single mother, to start over.
In the midst of the upheaval in her life Andrea had taken a job with a printing company. More upheaval lurked around the corner as she was soon laid off, but was eased by her eligibility for California Training Benefits (CTB) through the Employment Development Department (EDD). She signed up with Tri-Cities ROP and enrolled in the Computerized Office class in February 1999. Though she already had a degree Andrea was not computer literate. "Regardless of my degree, I was unable to survive in an office atmosphere without computer skills," she says, "I recall being intimidatedby the computer." She wanted to upgrade her computer skills and work for a temporary employment agency while waiting for the Real Estate market to rebound.
Andrea had tried other computer classes in the past but they didn't seem to work for her. Surrounded by other students who were also struggling she found comfort in Megan Martin's class. The small class size allowed individualize attention and encouraged students to look for creative ways to pursue employment.
After discovering that Andrea had a Bachelor's Degree, Ms. Martin encouraged her to take the C-Best exam so she could become a substitute teacher. Substitute teaching, it was reasoned, would give Andrea more hours to dedicate to continuing in the real estate business. She passed the exam, and with encouragement from Ms. Martin, pursued the possibility of teaching at the local community colleges which she felt were experiencing a shortage of real estate instructors. One of the colleges expressed interest in having Andrea teach Real Estate Principals, and since she had completed the computer skills classes at Tri-Cities ROP wanted her to teach those classes as well. Since then, Andrea has taught classes at several area adult schools, Azusa, Hacienda/La Puente, EI Monte/Rosemead, and Tri-Community in Covina. She has also taught at two area colleges, Citrus Community College and Glendale Community College. She has been at the later for over five years.
Andrea is still selling real estate and she teaches in the evening. She is a Certified Residential Specialist (CRS), the highest designation awarded to sales associates in the residential field. The CRS recognizes professional accomplishments in both experience and education. She has also received a credential as a Senior Real Estate Specialist, a special real estate field targeted to senior citizens. Andrea has also conducted computer classes for senior citizens, and life skills classes to prepare them to return to the business world. Between her own life experiences and those of her students, Andrea has realized that she can give back by helping middle age women buy their own homes, invest their money, and have confidence in their decisions. Andrea would like to create workshops to teach people how to prevent or stop foreclosures. Her workshop would discuss bankruptcies, reverse mortgages, and other financial programs that are currently being addressed by banks, but are not reaching people in their neighborhoods.
On top of all this, the determined Andrea, who would not let bankruptcy defeat her, would like to start her own Real Estate School. She has given herself a two-year time frame, which she no doubt will meet.
Andrea understands that many people put in the position she was in, when bankruptcy was her only alternative, would have quit. She realizes that being a businesswoman and understanding the business world gave her tools to deal with her many set backs, although she freely admits that even she has a breaking point. That point, fortunately; was never reached. For those who do not have the business know-how that she does, Andrea would like to give back to her community the lessons she has learned and the knowledge she has gained to succeed in life.