Welcome to Five Questions, an occasional series at the Alhambra Source, where we ask cool people with cool jobs about how they got to where they are today. Meet Roman Hernandez, 45, who divides his time between serving as San Gabriel High's PTA/PTSA president, raising his daughter, and working as an insurance salesperson. He encourages people to join PTA during their $10 membership drive for the 2016-2017 academic year. The organization meets every second Wednesday of each month in SGHS's Family Center with their next meeting taking place on September 14.
You've been part of Parent Teacher Association (PTA) for eight years and San Gabriel High's chapter president for four years. How and why did you become president?
There wasn't anybody stepping up to say they would do it. I was asked and very hesitant. I had never done like this in this capacity. I said, well, I'll give it a try. I received a fair amount of training and got a grasp over what I was stepping into. But my primary reason for being in PTA is I'm a big advocate of being in my daughter's life. At the same time, I don't necessarily need to be holding her hand. Her world is growing, from elementary school to high school, and just being part of the environment is my biggest calling. This affords me a great way to be part of her environment . She's not ready to venture out in the world alone yet, but she does need her space and independence and some space to grow. I want to make sure my daughter goes off in life as happy and healthy as possible. I'm just Dad! I'm just looking out for my kid. It's a big deal to stick and be around the whole way through.
Did you experience any challenges as president?
I learned as president, I have no voice. I'm not a voting member. We decide as a group some action, and my job is to organize that. It has presented some challenges. When I took over, participation was on the low when I got there. Only three families showing up, it wasn't strong by my measure. I made an effort my first year to learn how the school operates. It was an enormous undertaking….to figure out what PTA is, what the school and school district is as an entity. It's a perpetual learning curve. The responsibilities of being president was put in my lap overnight. It's a volunteer thing to do, trying to couple that with normal stuff in life like work, family and home.
What is the relationship like between PTA and SGHS?
There's a lot of uncertainty. I believe principal [Debbie Stone] is in a good place and said good things about making an attempt. Our goal is to help and provide added support. But we still are trying to find our place. We don't have a vote, but we just have a voice. It makes a huge difference on how business is operated at the school level. It's a good place to be at the moment, and we're going to be a bit better this year than last year.
What are some goals San Gabriel High's PTA wants to accomplish this year?
Increase participation, to find a way to breach some of the challenges when it comes to participation. A big part of that is language. We have several primary languages spoken at home at San Gabriel High. We need some resources to be able to assist in translating. We also need families showing up that need that. To have the school district to support that, it's going to be awfully terrible if we found all the translators but there's no need to do any translating at the meeting. It's not something we can control, but it'd be nice to make it available. We have dinner available! You can bring your kids, give some input, that would be wonderful.
We also would love to have a private picnic or BBQ on Fourth of July in 2017, so we can watch the Alhambra fireworks, put on Pandora, eat some food, and hang out. We want to increase the number of scholarships, and we are looking for new ways to fundraise. The money from the membership drive is not a fundraiser. It's basically PTA money to operate the nonprofit organization.
How can students and parents get involved?
They can make an effort to find out from the school office what time the PTA meeting takes place. Or to get a hold of any PTA board members and inquire as to what areas they can connect. The two things we have going on is the meetings and the snack bar at football games for fundraising. Often, people get routed to PTA meetings. Everything done under the PTA name has to be on record. If there are any actions taking place, that action has to take place at a meeting where we can vote on it and determine what's going to be done. The best way is to show up to the meetings, hear what's going on, and there's information to be shared. Lastly, get on the PTA board and have a vote.
The interview was edited for length and clarity.