Humans of Venice: Administrators Edition

Julia Escobar and Carmen Perez

Humans of Venice High is a series of photographs and personal histories revealing the hidden emotions of students. In this special issue, Julia Escobar and Carmen Perez interviewed two administrators regarding their personal stories.

Mr. Gabriel Griego (Principal)

Have you always wanted to become a principal?

“I remember when I was in fourth or fifth grade, I organized a Little League during lunch time and it was pretty cool. Every day, I looked forward to who they were going to play and was the one who organized it. Then my principal goes, ‘can you do that for the whole school?’ and I’m like ‘I’m only a fifth grader.’ She was like ‘No, we want to have intramurals.’

Ever since then, I knew I wanted to get into some type of coaching or organizing, so when I went to college, I knew I wanted to either be a physical education teacher or an elementary school teacher. I went the PE route. But then once I got into PE and I started teaching, I then knew I wanted to do more. I wanted to not only be a good PE teacher but also see how I could help all teachers be good teachers to kids, that’s what got me into administration. But going into it I knew that I wanted to be a principal, because you have that effect of getting everybody on the same page then we can all move forward for the better of our students. I wanted to be a teacher but once I became a teacher I knew I wanted to become an administrator.”

Who has influenced your life the most?

“It would be my father, he’s passed now. He always instilled education. He always instilled that to do what we wanted to do you have to get an education to support whatever job you want. And of course, our faith. He taught us our faith. What I give to all my children is what I have learned from him. My dad was the one who made sure that we got good grades and understood the fact that if you want things in life you’re going to have to work for it. He showed it with example. He was a hard worker. He had seven kids, so he had to work days and nights just to provide us with a house and clothes and food.”

What is your favorite high school memory?

“I went to an all-boys Catholic high school. My favorite memory was probably the most exciting one, I was an athlete, I played basketball. When I got accepted to college, my senior year, when I got that letter. The school I wanted to go to— I knew I wasn’t going to get offered a scholarship. But my coaches said that if I went there, I could probably walk on and play. So when I got that letter of acceptance, I remember I was really excited. It was around this time during my senior year March or April when you get those letters. I will never forget where I was at, I will never forget who I went to see first and who I talked to first. It was all when I got accepted into college.”

What has been the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome?

“When I was younger, my father lost his job. He couldn’t work anymore because of a medical condition. We had it pretty good with him working. My mom didn’t work; he was able to provide. He worked for the Department of Water and Power for the county. He had a really good job, but then medically he couldn’t work. So our lives went from living in a very nice situation to my dad not working and us having to use Food Stamps. It changed when I was in the sixth or seventh grade. So staying focused on academics, because that was still his rule, was harder because things got tougher for all of us. So I think that it took me longer to finish school. The older brothers finished sooner and then all of us took a little longer. My youngest ones didn’t even go.

I lost my dad the way he was— really strict in terms of academics and everything. I had that up until seventh grade so I had all of that foundation. My younger brothers lost that side of him when they were in kindergarten, elementary school, really. So they didn’t have a strong foundation. He was still there for them for all throughout their lives, but he was more of a nicer father,  not so strict. So because of that, they didn’t finish school. Their lives are tougher.

I tell you guys: easy school, hard life, hard school, easy life. You have to work hard to get good things. My brothers had it easy growing up so now it’s now a struggle for them. Overcoming and persevering and not giving up is important. Even though it took longer to finish school, I was still able to fulfill my dreams. Be a principal. Have a family, a nice home.”

 

Ms. Lakisha Clark (Assistant Principal of Secondary Counseling)

What do you like the most about your job?

“There is something different going on every day. It gives me an opportunity to do multiple things. I like to be involved. That gives me an opportunity to see all students not just those that might have been in my classroom but all the students that are on campus.”

What is the hardest part of your job?

The hardest part is not having enough time to juggle all my responsibilities in a day. When students aren’t successful or they have emotional things going on, sometimes those are the things that are a little sad to me, but they also motivate me to be a resource for the students and to assist them.”

What is the favorite part of your day?

The morning. In the morning, I get to see all the teachers coming in and after doing that, going out to the morning supervision where I get to see all the students coming in. People knowing exactly who you are, asking questions and building relationships.”

What has been the happiest moment of your life?

“My children. I have three step-children and one biological child. All of them are achievements.”

What is something you enjoy doing?

A lot of family things. Traveling is the biggest thing. I like to travel not just within the United States, but around the world, and basic family time.”

What are some of your goals in life?

To become more of an effective assistant principal, to learn more about the counseling aspect of it. To travel more and just to continue to increase my family time.”

Who has influenced you to become who you are right now?

“My great-grandmother and my grandmother. I had my great-grandmother in my life until I was in my late 20’s which most people don’t have. She has kind of molded me into the person that I am and my grandmother took over from there and continued. I lost her three years ago. They have always inspired me to do well. They always put those thoughts out there for me that ‘you will be successful’ to be determined. They were strong women. They taught me how to be a strong woman as well.”

What would you say to students who don’t know you?

“Just to introduce myself, I am Ms. Clark. I am the assistant principal of counseling. I am here to assist students with any aspects of counseling, learn about their grades if they are struggling in class, to show what support we have out there for them. If there is something that their counselor can’t answer and that includes their college counselor, I am a resource for them as well. I am looking forward to handing them that diploma on graduation day.”

If you didn’t have this job, what else do you think you would be doing?

“I would probably be doing something in finance because I haven’t always been in education. I graduated with an MBA degree; my focus was law and finance at that point. Either an attorney or some type of business owner.”

What advice would you give to students?

“Never give up. Be persistent. One of the things I love to tell friends and family is that it is all about perspective, the way you think about something. If there is something that you are really interested in and that you want to pursue, keep the mind set that you can achieve it. And if you fall a little short, then that’s alright, at leasta

you made that effort because you never want to wonder ‘what if I would’ve tried.’”

 

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