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Jaime Mercado

Description: Intro music with video of Jaime Mercado meeting with teachers and administrators at National City Adult School.

Narrator:  Jaime Mercado spoke no English, whatsoever, when he arrived in California at age 11.  He dropped out of high school to help support his family, but low paying jobs were a dead end.  He found the motivation and opportunities he needed in adult education.

Description: He is shown sitting in his office wearing a dark suit and tie. There is an old family photo of his mother and father on their wedding day and a picture of Jaime and his brother as children shown. A photo of Jaime at age 18 standing outside surrounded by other kids is shown.

Jaime: My dad is from Arizona but my mother is from Guadalajara and you know the families are going back and forth, so we actually came here in 1955, when I was 11 years old and spoke no English whatsoever, and was based in San Ysidro.  I went through the school, the elementary school there and some of the Sweetwater schools.  My dad was a laborer and he found it difficult to keep abreast of the financial conditions of the family and so, at some point in time, being 18 years old, I felt an obligation to help out the family and I dropped out of school.  I was out washing dishes. I was washing cars. I was working in the fields and found that that kind of work was not helping me and certainly not helping the family in any way and I saw absolutely no future.  It seemed very, very dark for me and I thought the only way out is to go back to school and get an education.  So, I went back to adult school.  My goals were, actually, I didn't have any goals.  All I knew was that I was desperate to get out of the situation which I was in and I had the good fortune of meeting Mr. Burke Mills, who was the English teacher at that time in the adult school at Mar Vista Adult School.  He was the one that motivated me, that encouraged me, that provided me the environment that I needed, to first, believe in myself, and secondly, to actualize my potential.  And one of the things that he had said to me and I still remember is “You will do anything you want to do, if you work at it.  You have the ability to do that and I will help you in any way I can.”  And he did.  I was so motivated by his words and by his actions, that I finished the 11th and 12th grade in six months.  It was something that I had to do because somebody else believed in me.  He had a way, and he still has a way, of bringing out from within you, that which propels you after he's gone and after he's no longer around you, to continue in your path of success.

Description: Video of Jaime meeting with Mr. Burke Mills in the office of the high school.  A shot of his high diploma is shown. Burke Mills is a older gentleman with large eyeglasses wearing a dark sportcoat and striped shirt.

Burke Mills, Teacher: Jaime was a drop out from high school and was having trouble with high school and I was just talking to him one day. I had a special program like civics and literature and all that, where guys could come in and get their credits and Jaime just was a plugger. He did very well.  He lifted himself out of the status of just being one of the boys into "I'm gonna go someplace."

Description: Video of the interview with Jaime continues. There is a picture of Jaime's old student body card from Southwest Junior High School shown and then an exterior shot of Mar Vista High School, a white art deco facade with a large flagpole in the courtyard entrance. Video of the interview with Jaime continues.

Jaime: Teaching was the farthest thing from my mind, but when I felt that he had had such an impact in my life, I thought this is one of the things I want to do with my life. I want to go into teaching and create an impact on some other kids' lives as he created on mine.  I started in education in the Head Start program and I found it as rewarding as I thought it would be.  Then I became, obviously, a teacher, and I was a teacher at Southwest Junior High School, by the way, where I was a student.  I went back to Southwest Junior High School as an Assistant Principal and then, oddly enough, I went back to Mar Vista High School, where I dropped out of, and became the Principal.  And I still had three teachers who had been my teachers at the time when I was a student there.  And one of them, who was also teaching there, was Mr. Mills.

Description: When Jaime and Mr. Mills meet again at Mar Vista High School, they embrace. There is an old photo shown of Jaime and his "homeboys".

Burke Mills: He had maneuvered all the way through this life of being a homeboy, a boy of some caliber of the area, not being a student, more or less, just being somebody who wanders around, but finally he gets it all together and comes back and says this is living proof that anybody, if they want to put their own empire to work and do something and achieve something, you can do through adult education.

Description: Rudy Kastelic is a middle-aged gentleman with graying hair and beard wearing a tan business suit and dark patterned tie.

Rudy Kastelic, Director, Adult Education, Sweetwater USD: To see him succeed is a charge for me. That's my natural charge.

Description: Video interview with Jaime continues and concludes.

Jaime:  I have no particular super skills, as someone would say, well but you did it because (shaking his head, No), you do it because you have an interest; you do it because you put the work into it, and you persevere. And if I did it, anybody else can do it.  And people continue to do it.