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Rigo Alvarado

Description: Introduction music with the blue OTAN logo appearing on a black screen. The music continues as Burr Guthrie begins his interview. He is a young man with dark and dark eyes. He is wearing and orange shirt and standing in front of a bookcase.

Burr Guthrie, Site Administrator, Oakland Adult & Career Education: I came to Oakland Adult and Career Ed in 2006 and that first year we had series of retreats at the Waterfront Hotel at Jack London Square in Oakland.

Description: Exterior shot of the Waterfront Hotel. It is a large boxlike building painted with horizontal green stripes.

Rigoberto walks into a hotel banquet room, studying the papers in his hand. He is wearing a dark suit, burgundy shirt, and striped tie.

Burr: During one of our retreats there, Rigo was kind of overseeing the servers in the banquet room we were in. When I met Rigo, he had transitioned out of adult ed and was on his trajectory in his professional career.

Description: Rigoberto is smiling and laughing and standing in front of a classroom.

Burr: I quickly realized he was a huge success story of OACE and proceeded to nominate him.

Description: Rigoberto is a middle-aged Hispanic man with short, dark hair and dark eyes. He is wearing a dark suit and tie. He is speaking in front of a class.

Rigoberto: So in 1991, I came to Oakland, California, like everybody else looking for better opportunity to learn and to live. And then I started to the ESL classes in this school, in this room. I remember, I some classes over here.

Description: There are several students seated at desks listening to Rigoberto speak. There are both men and women.

Rigoberto: And then they are helping me a lot. I dish washed in the restaurant. I went to clean the gardens. I did everything. But you know, I really like what I do now; the interaction with the people.

Description: Rigoberto is sitting at his desk, talking on the phone and taking notes.

Rigoberto: That's what I like. I had opportunity to be, little by little, in all the positions that we have in my department. So I started has a houseman, doing all the setups.

Description: The buffet setup is shown with all the serving dishes and platters of food.

Rigoberto: So then I became a server. After the server, I became a banquet captain.

Description: Rigoberto is walking down the path at the Waterfront Hotel and entering the Banquets & Catering Services office.

Rigoberto: And this is very important. Don't be afraid. Don't be afraid of your talking because you know I knew that this is not my native language. I know that sometimes I cannot pronounce very well. I'm still having that kind of problem. Sometimes people don't understand what I try to say. But you know, I know that I'm in the process. I'm learning. I'm still learning.

Description: Nicole Rua and a young, pretty woman with dark hair and eyes. She is wearing a red dress and good earrings.

Nicole Rua, ESL Teacher, Oakland Adult & Career Education: He just has a great, charismatic personality and I knew that he could connect with my students in a way that I couldn't. When I met him at our ceremony and started an email exchange, I knew right away that he could come and speak and address those issues.

Description: Photo of Rigoberto at an Oakland Adult & Career Education ceremony. He is sitting in a chair talking with all those around him.

Rigoberto is standing in front of the class giving his presentation.

Rigoberto:  I told them I can go to school, I mean to stores, or anywhere that people don't speak Spanish at all and don't feel bad if you can't pronounce very well. Because that's one of the things that happened to us that when we want to communicate and we can't pronounce very well, so we get frustrated and that's very bad.

Description: Rigoberto is sitting in an office with bookshelves in the background to do his interview.

Rigoberto: My priority was English but the opportunities that I had at work so this made me go back to because I wanted to learn some computers also. Then I wanted to get some like diploma of GED because I used to look everywhere and they wanted a GED diploma or computer skills just to get the job I wanted.

Description: Rigoberto sits at a computer typing.

Rigoberto: I remember my boss went to for vacation for almost two months, and I was in charge, temporarily in charge for the whole department. I was in charge to do all the payments, the checks for all the events that we have in-house and to do that I had to know how to use a computer. When my boss came back from vacation, so they gave me a big, big surprise. I said, “So, what did I do?” So they told me that the General Manager was there. He has been promoted to the Food and Beverage Director we are going to nominate you to Banquet Assistant Manager, in those days. So I couldn't believe it.

Description: Rigoberto is sitting at his computer and making a phone call.

Rigoberto: So then I was so happy because with that came my salary increase. My responsibility also increased. And all, you know, everything, my environment, at work, at home, everything changed. Because that motivated me to be, you know, a good person and help the other ones when I can.

Nicole: It's really important to see students come back and share with their community and show students that it's important to come to school on a regular basis and to set goals and connect with the community.

Description: Rigoberto finishes his presentation for the class and they all clap and smile.

Nicole: And share how going to school really does make a difference even when you're frustrated.

Rigoberto: Like in my case, I feel so proud, you know, for the people here in this country is to open the whole environment for me, to make it easy for me to live here. That's why I like to go when I'm invited or when I have an opportunity to tell people, you know, think about it. We're not here just to make money, become a part of a good citizen.

Burr: I really am so happy to know Rigo and how he exemplifies how adult ed helped him get where he is and it's really satisfying for him and it's satisfying for me to know that I'm involved in part of education that can act as a tool for social justice and help people get where they're going.

Description: Old family photos are shown of Rigo. He is standing in the middle of a large group of smiling people. The second photo is of young Rigoberto. More photos of a special event honoring Rigoberto are shown. He is holding flowers in both photos.

The credits read produced by OTAN, September 2008, producer, Penny Pearson, director, Douglas Rennie. The screen fades to black.