Humans of Washington High School: Essential Workers

Gilbert Mendoza

Gilbert Mendoza.

Gilbert “Gil” Mendoza is a campus supervisor at Washington. You’ll see him roaming the campus and in the lunch line making sure no one cuts. During online school, Gil worked hard by cleaning, prepping, and getting the school ready for students to return. He recalls, “We were working our tails off.” This year, his biggest job has been ensuring students wear masks. Gil came to Washington after 19 years of working in campus security at James Logan High School. He comfortably retired in 2009, but years later, he wanted to work again. He started by being a substitute teacher for 6 months, and then started working in campus security. “I love it, I am going to retire here,” he says. One thing he would like students to know is that he is always available for them. Many students are scared that their questions might be stupid or that they’re wasting someone’s time, but Gil wants students to know, “You can approach me with any kind of problem you have, and I won’t judge you, I will try to help you.” He says that he knows the difficulties teenagers go through, and he is glad to help anyone with them. He lastly has a request for students: please refrain from sitting on your phone in the bathroom. Gil says that he has noticed kids going to the bathroom with their phones.

Kathy Fetz

Kathy Fetz.

Kathy Fetz is another campus supervisor at Washington High School. You’ll see her in the student parking lot after school making sure everyone is following the rules. To protect students, she makes sure no one enters Washington from off-campus. If she sees a stranger she makes sure to figure out why they are there. She also makes sure kids attend class and don’t cut school. She keeps an eye out for anything crazy happening on campus, such as fights or brawls. Kathy came to Washington in 2002, and she remarks, “I know you weren’t born yet!” She’s been at Washington ever since and says that she is here to help any student. In terms of bullying, she says, “Do not be afraid to mention it to me, I am here to help you out.” She feels a personal connection to every student, as she has two sons herself. “It’s like you guys are 2,000 of my kids, so I have 2000 plus 2. That’s 2002!” One of her biggest challenges has been students misbehaving. She jokes, “My favorite phrase is ‘stay focused, otherwise, I will nag.’” She has noticed a shift in students from online school to in-person learning which has made it difficult for them to stay focused for entire school days. She lastly notes the problems with parking, not just from students but staff also.

Debbie Junger

Debbie Junger.

Whether they are buying delicious $1 cookies or purchasing drinks, many students do not take time to recognize the people working behind the snack bar. Debbie Junger has worked in the Fremont Unified School District for over 20 years and loves to serve the community. During the pandemic, she provided bagged to-go lunches for countless families. Despite the pandemic and stress from safety measures, this hands-on experience was worthwhile to her as she helped the people who needed meals. “The way I look at things, as long as we are trying to wash our hands as much as possible, wear a mask, get our vaccinations, we are going to be as safe as we can be,” she said. Debbie loves to have conversations with Washington students as she gives them brownies and drinks at the snack bar. Her admiration for culinary arts is also reflected in her hobbies, as she often gives baked treats to her neighbors. Outside of her time working at Washington, she loves reading, shopping, and gardening. She also enjoys sewing Halloween costumes of characters like Batman and Catwoman for her four children.

Robin Tuck

Neck-down picture of Robin Tuck in her FUSD apron.

Standing in lunch lines, students often pass by unnoticed food service workers without knowing their names. Robin Tuck, the production manager at Washington’s cafeteria, is a key element to the staff chain as she is responsible for the decision-making and organization that provides Washington students free access to school food. “We had difficulties getting food. We are still having difficulties from purchasing food to physically getting it here,” she says about the challenges the pandemic has brought upon her department. Prior to her job at Washington, she worked numerous jobs including as a cook, a building contractor, and as a Yard Duty. Her managerial experience led to her being hired by the Fremont Unified School District, where she has worked since 2002. Outside of school, Tuck also runs a jewelry boutique and takes care of her parents. Tuck concludes by saying, “We work hard. I know that sometimes [students] see the strain on our faces, and we apologize for that. If you see my car out in the school parking lot at 7 pm at night, it is because I am still working.”

Virginia Jimenez

Virginia Jimenez.

After school, when the floors of Washington are full of litter, Washington’s custodians like Virginia Jimenez clean up the grounds. As a custodian, she cleans, repairs, and reports any problems at Washington that she finds. Mrs. Virginia applied to work at Glenmoor when her daughter’s school needed kitchen workers, but she accepted the custodian position here when it opened. She has also cleaned the grounds of schools such as Warm Springs, Grimmer, and Centerville. She has worked at Washington for 12 years. During distance learning, Mrs. Virginia and the rest of the cleaning staff took care of Washington’s campus in the students’ absence. She often feels upset and disrespected over the treatment by students of the school campus. She says, “We want you to love your school. This place is like your home, treat it like your home.” She hopes students will treat the campus better. Mrs. Virginia is a mother and has been married for over 30 years. She speaks highly of her family and children, and her daughter is now a nurse in Los Angeles. Mrs. Virginia is of Mexican descent, and she is very proud of her heritage. She explained that she thinks highly of Mexico’s president Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador. As a custodian, Mrs. Virginia enjoys taking care of the school grounds and urges students to treat it with love.

Ana Aguilar

Ana Aguilar.

Meet Ana Aguilar, one of Washington’s school cooks. Mrs. Ana handles food delivery and transports. She has served food at schools including Durham, Niles, Cabrillo, Parkmont, and more. She has a deep love for Fremont as it’s the community she grew up in. She graduated from American High School, and her children attend schools in the Fremont Unified School District. During distance learning, Mrs. Ana and the rest of the kitchen staff supplied food for families at the school curbside. “We were always here packing and making food, making sure that all these families in need had access to free and healthy food,” she said. She served the community during a difficult time, and said it was because she’s a mother and loves making a connection with students. Mrs. Ana sees all her students as her children. She wants students to know that she wants them to take advantage of the opportunities offered to them and to not worry about food access, “I don’t have a job if I have no students to cook for. We want students to do well in school and they shouldn’t worry about being hungry at home. We feed them here,” she explained. To her, students’ health is a top priority. To better serve her community, she is working towards a degree in Business Administration. “By obtaining my degree, I am trying to make improvements in the school district. I’m seeking a supervisor role,” she said. “I want to provide great food, healthy food, and great customer service,” she added. Mrs. Ana serves students with an enthusiastic smile and a mother’s love.

Julie Johnson

Julie Johnson.

Julie Johnson is an attendance clerk for students with the last names A-G here at Washington High School, but in her words, “I really do a little bit of everything.” Some of these tasks include supervising independent study long-term absences, directing radio traffic staff members via walkie-talkie, and handling 911 calls in the event of an on-campus emergency. She says, “We’re the first line of defense. We get people where they need to go.” 

How did you get to Washington?

“I used to work in Human Resources for Fremont Unified School District, and I have two kids who also go to FUSD schools, so I wanted to be on the same schedule as them. I really enjoy working with students, I’ve been at Washington for fifteen years.”

How has your job changed over the pandemic?

“I worked from my kitchen table and took phone calls and emails from parents in regards to attendance. We did a lot of Zoom meetings to keep in contact with the administration.”

What is one thing you want students to know?

“I really want students to know that I’m here to help them, and I appreciate their honesty. I want to remind them that it’s important to be who they are. I’m here for them, I want to help them. It’s my job.”

Kids, family, hobbies, interesting facts?

“I’m a huge dog lover, and have one of my own. I’ve been married for 25 years as of this year. I have two kids, 19 and 22. Both my children are tall, my son is over six feet. I love medical dramas and soap operas like Grey’s Anatomy. I love music and I love watching musicals.”

Venya Karpelevitch is a junior at Washington High School. He has lived and grown up in Fremont, California. This is his first year at The Hatchet. His journalistic interests are politics and Jewish issues. His hobbies include video games, biking, and debate. He plans on pursuing chemistry in college, as well as learning at a yeshiva.

Shaunak Roy is a senior at Washington High School. Having spent the first ten years of his life amidst the tightly-knit neighborhoods of India, Shaunak continues his passion for communal activities by playing gully cricket with his friends and participating in dance teams in the States. As a first-year member of The Hatchet, he strives to interview students at his school and report their unique stories, while occasionally reviewing horrible Bollywood movies for the mere fun of it. Besides being randomly interested in watching chess videos and singing in video calls with his sister, Shaunak has developed a strong passion for physics and engineering over the past few years of high school, which he plans to further explore in college.

Dylan Mabunga is a sophomore at Washington High School. He was born in San Jose, California, and moved to Fremont when he was two. This is his first year with the Hatchet. Topics he is interested in include world events, sports, and movies and video games. Dylan enjoys playing basketball, video games, and hanging out with friends. Dylan is unsure of what he wants to do in the future, but currently is planning on going to college and is unsure what to major in.

Renée Diop has spent all four years here at Washington, but before moving here, she grew up in the Midwest, in Chicago, Illinois. This is her first year writing for The Hatchet, exploring topics in the arts, entertainment, and controversial breaking news fields. Her hobbies include teaching debate to novice members as the captain of the team, listening to all genres of music (except country), and reading philosophy. She plans to major in psychology in college and pursue a career in writing.

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