Oscar de la Hoya, Ivan Gaeta, and Steve Barr at Ivan’s graduation
From his first days at Oscar de la Hoya Ánimo Charter High School, Ivan Gaeta noticed things were a bit different.
Unlike at other schools he’d attended or his friends’ high schools, the teachers knew all the students by name. Even the administrators did. Even more – they all seemed to like the students. And the students liked them.
Part of the school’s founding class in 2003, Ivan also discovered something else in just his second week on campus. Actually, he discovered someone else: Emiliano Hernandez, Green Dot’s IT Director at the time. Under the IT team’s guidance, Ivan worked part-time on the school’s IT system throughout his years at Oscar de la Hoya. “I just knew that I liked computers and wanted to do something with computers,” Ivan says.
“The teachers were very genuine,” Ivan recalls. “I was looking for people to talk to about my interests and Green Dot gave me people to talk to. I felt very welcomed to the Green Dot community.”
Working in his IT jobs helped build Ivan’s confidence and helped develop a sense of self-motivation he hadn’t had before, he adds. “After being shown the ropes, I was able to dedicate enough time to fully commit to the world of Information Technology.”
That current position is back where it all began: at Green Dot. Now a Network Administrator, Ivan can see how the experiences he had in high school are being replicated for a new generation of students. Green Dot presented opportunities and resources to Ivan that directly influenced his life and career goals.
“I’ve been able to experience Green Dot as a student and as an employee,” he says. “I believe in our mission. In my personal experience, I am prepared for leadership and life. I’m going back to school to develop other skills needed for work and life.”
Ivan’s former teachers also recognize how his time at Oscar de la Hoya Ánimo Charter High School helped prepare him. “One change I have noticed over the years is how he has become more outgoing, willing to share about how his studies, his family life, and his work are going for him,” says Spanish teacher Sandra Ochoa. “He also does listen to shared life experiences.”
“Over the past 10+ years, Ivan has learned how to turn his hard work and determination into a career that he enjoys” says former teacher and current Assistant Principal at Ánimo Venice Charter School, Helene Pao Atkinson. “He has set goals for himself and achieved them. He is still a positive, respectful young man and still curious about life” she adds.
Now, Ivan looks forward to completing his Associate’s Degree at East Los Angeles Community College and transferring to a four-year school to continue his education and to compliment his work experience.
“In my personal environment, I’m not exposed to professionals who appear to have a very balanced lifestyle. I became exposed to that while working for Green Dot and that, as a result, has taught me that there are other ways of living that I wanted for myself. I feel like a lot of us first generation students lack that perspective and I’d like to share the knowledge and experiences I’ve acquired at Green Dot with my community and other students.”