Despite having to interrupt his education several times, Adolfo González always knew he wanted to go back to school. This year, at age 58, he graduated with honors from California State University, Monterey Bay. He’s not done yet either. He hopes to earn a master’s in education, but before that, he plans to become a teacher in Salinas, California, a community that is facing a shortage of educators.
To his daughters, Marie and Blanca, and granddaughter, Kayla, Adolfo has always been a teacher. He used a whiteboard to teach his daughter equations. He even insisted that while she showered, Marie listen to recordings of the multiplication tables. But his journey to the classroom has been decades in the making.
He grew up in San Andres Yaa, Oaxaca, where he spoke Zapoteco. By age 8, he moved away from his parents to the city of Oaxaca, so he could have more educational opportunities. There, he learned Spanish, but just a few years later, when he was 12, he had to stop going to school so he could earn money. At 18, he went back to school, but he was forced to stop shortly after when his dad died.
Eventually, he ended up in California in 1986 as a farmworker, so he could send money to his family. “I took the decision to come to the United States like everybody does, because it’s the only way we can support our family,” he said, according to The Californian. “I always promised to my mom ‘I will buy you a house,’ and I did it.”
He started by taking English classes at the Salinas Adult School, though he had to stop school once celery season swung back around. But he kept at it, and a decade later, he was able to earn his GED diploma. His next step was Hartnell College, but after a counselor told him that his age and English-speaking skills would hold him back, he dropped out. His wife and daughter Marie encouraged him by enrolling him again. Marie suggested she get help from a counselor who had helped her, and this time he graduated with an associate’s in Spanish in 2017. The next year, he transferred to to CSUMB, the school his daughter graduated from in 2018.
On May 18, he graduated.
“It’s not a unique story,” he said. “But it’s a story of my success, of how I worked hard to get my education… I have done this for my family, for my community.”