One of a kind: Armendariz proves a wondrous force at LMC

“My dad’s hands were like really thick fingers, very rough and he would just put his hands up and he would tell us, ‘if you don’t want hands like this, you have to make something of yourself, you have to go to school’ and I loved my dad’s hands but at the same time, I remember how hard and rough they were. And that was his life, but we weren’t ashamed of it.”

Rosa Armendariz’s father worked in the farming industry. He bailed hay from trucks at the Chase Brothers Dairy in Oxnard, California.   It was an odd job, but he was a very hard worker.

Just a few miles away, a small Rosa was learning life skills from her mother.

“She was teaching me to count using pennies in Spanish,” said Rosa. “My mother invested so much in me… it was probably one of the most influential things for me.”

She was the second child to her immigrant parents. Her mother, from Mexico, was an elementary school teacher before relocating to the United States. Her father was from the Basque region of Spain.

Rosa grew up as the baby of the family, with just one sibling — a brother who was 15 years her senior. She idolized him from an early age, citing him as her inspiration to better herself.

“My brother had gone to college, so it was matter of fact that I was going to do the same thing.”

He would later become her colleague, as Blas Guerrero was formerly the dean of student development at Los Medanos College.

Rosa attended Catholic school from the first grade throughout high school.

“I have fond memories of being the eighth grade student body president…I would lead flag salute in the morning. I used a microphone, feeling powerful and we would sing ‘America the Beautiful’,” said a smiling Armendariz.  “They called me the Voice, because I got really loud with the mic.”

As for ambition, “I wanted to be the first nun president of the United States,” recalled Armendariz. She added that being a nun was very admirable and she wanted to be a leader.

Rosa’s father died when she was a junior in high school. “I was a good student, I had a drive…I probably grew up too fast in high school.” After her father’s passing, Rosa committed to two things, getting through high school and helping her mom cope with the loss of her husband.

The latter required Rosa to work nights delivering medications to the elderly. She recalls driving a little black car, possibly a Ford Escort that was plastered with pharmacy stickers.

Between the strong educational influences instilled by her parents and her longing to be a leader, it seemed to be only natural that Rosa would become a member of the education field.

After high school, she attended Stanford University where she majored in Spanish Literature/English studies. Rosa is currently pursuing a doctor of Education degree (Ed. D) at St. Mary’s College.

While a junior at Stanford, tragedy struck once more as her mother also passed away.

“The Rodney King riots happened when I was a sophomore in high school, they marked my experience in high school. It effected the race dynamics and how we were experiencing the world,” said Rosa. “That was a real shift for me and I wanted to be an activist because of it.”

Sure enough, she began work after Stanford with the nonprofit organization, Parent Institute for Quality Education (PIQÉ).

PIQÉ works with the parents, largely immigrants, to teach them how to save up for their children’s college funds. This program was in use for many K-12 schools in the bay area. Although it is a widespread program, Rosa helped to nurture the Oakland office from its humble beginnings.

Through PIQÉ she met Peter Garcia, the then LMC president. It was this meeting that would provide her with the job opportunity that she currently holds at LMC.

Garcia had already attended a few workshops that were being led by Armendariz when he talked to her about the possibility of bringing the program to a college level. During that conversation Garcia and Armendariz also talked about a new Hispanic Serving Institute (HSI) grant that LMC was looking into applying for.

There was mention of an opening for the position of Activity Director for that grant.

“I remember at the end of that discussion feeling really excited about what LMC was about to do,” said Armendariz. “I had a really good vibe…I had to really think hard about leaving the job I was in.”

In 2006, Rosa applied and was hired on as the Activity Director for the HSI grant. She worked in that capacity for the length of the grant, lasting four years from 2006 to 2010.

Speaking on her team for the grant, Rosa expressed that, “it was what I had envisioned when we wrote the proposal.”

In 2010, the grant ended. Not wanting to leave LMC, Rosa decided to fall back into a teaching position. For two semesters, Armendariz taught Philosophy 002.

Along with teaching and working on the grant, Rosa is also the faculty advisor for the La Raza Unida Club. She adopted that role in 2006 and helped to redevelop the club to its former prominence.

“I felt that this club was important because when I was in college, I found the Latino clubs really helped me survive,” said Armendariz. “It gave me a place to serve as a role model for students, if they see me that way.”

In 2011, LMC ventured out again to receive an additional HSI Grant. This time around, Armendariz became Project Director. At this point, she decided to cut down on her teaching classes and to focus more on areas like the Transfer Academy, although she does teach ACS-110 for students of the Transfer Academy.

The HSI grant is helping to improve the transfer rates for students at LMC. “We are making an impact on making transfer a priority for the college,” said Armendariz.

Transfer applications and admittance has improved over the last couple of years with help from the grant and the programs that are funded by it.

Nowadays, Rosa has taken on yet another role. This time it is that of mother, as Rosa welcomed baby boy Diego in March 2012.

“I feel like my life has totally changed since the baby was born,” said Rosa adding that she does not remember what she used to like to do, with her life now revolving around someone else.

Thinking back on her accomplishments, Rosa stated that she sees herself as a survivor. Having lost both her parents at pivotal points in her educational career, she had to finish college despite her losses.

Up to this point, she is still most proud of her work with PIQÉ in her early career. That is not to say that she is not also very proud of her work with the HSI grants.

Rosa plans on continuing her career in education alongside her also being a parent. “I’m learning to be more patient with life and how to be more balanced,” said Rosa adding that, “I didn’t think I was going to fall in love with LMC, but I did. I feel the rest of my life will be dedicated to this kind of work.”