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My family has lived in Southern California since around the late 1800’s to early 1900’s. My paternal great-grandparents came to California around that time from Texas and Mexico, probably for economic reasons. The maternal side of my family is a bit mixed but they also arrived in California around that time. They came from Sicily, Colorado and Arizona, probably also for economic reasons.

Southern California back then was all farms and ranches, dairies and groves. My family went to work and they have always worked hard. Some of my family worked in the fields while some were entrepreneurs. Our family had a small trucking business until the 1970’s and even a restaurant in Corona until the early 1950’s. No one in my family was educated though above the high school level until a couple of my aunts and uncles and cousins received their college degrees beginning around the 1970’s and 80’s.

My dad was (and is) my hero. He was a US Marine and so growing up I wanted to be US Marine also. Academics held almost no interest for me in my teens even though I was given opportunity after opportunity to excel academically. Mostly this opportunity came from my parents who struggled to pay my way through private school, but also from my teachers and school administrators who would often bemoan my seeming potential and my frustrating lack of effort.

When I turned eighteen I joined the Marines. I enjoyed my time in the Corps and upon my discharge I began working in an oil refinery. I was a bit unfocused at that point. I had tried going to Fullerton College at the same time and I liked it and did well, but I was twenty-two years old and what I really wanted was to make money. The refinery paid pretty well so I dropped out of school and worked at the refinery full time. I excelled at the refinery, eventually moving into a management position and I worked there for eighteen years. Throughout that time I became aware of many of my limitations, mostly having to do with a lack of a post-secondary education. What bothered me was not simply my limitations having to do with the engineering mechanics of my job (though there was that also), but that I had no real knowledge of history, economics, philosophy and higher math. In my early 40’s I made a radical decision to take a new direction in life and I joined a Roman Catholic religious order, the Capuchin Franciscans. I was a Franciscan friar for two years before deciding it wasn’t for me. Those two years though were the best of my life and I was the best in my life. I left the friars in the fall of 2009 and I decided to go back to work but I also took a few classes at FC to see what I was academically capable of.

What a wonderful second chance FC has been for me. I took classes from outstanding professors such as Nick Huerta and Paul Farnham for math, Jodi Balma for political science and Dr.’s Bruce Hanson and Michael Holden for philosophy. My professors are who I will remember most about my FC years. Jodi Balma especially, she is not only the type of professor I hope to be someday but she also took an interest in my success and nominated me for man of distinction. The young people from FC’s philosophy club are also an amazing group that I will never forget. I know we will be keeping our friendships up even after we all move on.

I am heading to UC Berkeley this fall to double major in philosophy and rhetoric which I hope will lead to a second career as a teacher. I think most of my success at FC was due to the welcoming atmosphere created by FC’s faculty and administration, the school’s diversity and professionalism. I also came here with a solid primary education (as excruciating as it must have been for my teachers) and a habit I developed over time of focusing on what needs to be done and then doing it without becoming unduly distracted. I am amazed at how many mature young men and women we have at FC who can do that in their teens and early 20’s. I could not do it at that age.

My only advice to the young people who are coming to FC is the same thing I told our philosophy club shortly after we first met and it is one of the few things I know for sure. Hug the ones closest to you every day and tell them you love them, especially your parents. Life begins to move awfully fast once you start college Most students know what needs to be done as far as schoolwork goes. No one really needs to tell you, and most likely in college no one will. It is up to you whether or not you put the time in and do the necessary work.

Alumni Strories: Manuel Chavira, Jr.

"FC will give you all the tools necessary, and more, to do whatever you want to do and to become whatever you want to be. "