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Vela '95 Has Passion for Salinas Students, Wabash College

Howard W. Hewitt, Salinas, Calif.- Many Wabash alums talk of their passion for the College and how it changes their lives. But few exhibit the exuberance and share a life story like that of Ernesto "Ernie" Vela.

Ernie has transformed from a young man with poor grades who hoped to work in retail, to the principal of Cesar Chavez Elementary School with designs on becoming a school superintendent. And soon, he'll be known as Dr. Vela.

He was reluctanct to come to Wabash and wasn't sure how he would do so far away from home. Today he simply credit Wabash for "everything I am today."

One of his mentors, Patrick Egan, helped get the ball rolling in the late 80s by getting Alisal High School students to consider an all-male college in a place that seemed very far away to most of them. He shakes his head thinking his former wide receiver and baseball player will soon be Dr. Vela.

Vela has risen quickly from teacher to administrator and is in his second stint as a principal. His commitment to Wabash extends beyond words alone. He returned last fall during the Top 10 Admission Weekend and he is an energetic recruiter in Salinas always looking for the next possible Wabash man.

This evening all three area grads are headed out to dinner. We're taking Miguel Esquivel with us tonight. Miguel will arrive on campus in August as part of the Class of 2010. He could be the 10th Alisal grad to attend and graduate from Wabash College.

Anthony Avitia '96 found a passion for helping latinos and all those around him, in part, while at Wabash. While on campus, he realized there are lots of different people in the world. He realized many of his friends and young people back home are totally unaware of the world outside Central  California.

Anthony worked for a reading program in San Francisco, with disabled students and parents in Arizona, and for Muscular Dystrophy in San Jose before turning to education. He's on a one year contract at Alisal High in an alternative education program which employs contract learning with students. Essentially he counsels and advises students who have fallen behind.

Avitia plans to finish his masters from San Jose State in December, after teaching summer school at Alisal, with a degree in counseling. He'll seek a counseling position then, with Alisal High School high on his list for permanent employment.

Full stories on Avitia, Vela, and Hugo Mariscal will be published this fall in Wabash Magazine and the Wabash website.

See related story: The three Salinas guys we visited talk about the national immigration debate, click here.

In photos: On home page, Vela congratulates a parent Thursday morning during an awards program for 3rd through 5th graders. Above right, Vela gets students into position for the ceremony. Lower left, the high school sign was flashing congratulations to a handful of students who had won college scholarships. Lower right, Avitia talks to his students Thursday afternoon.



Nice story on the Wabash men from the Salinas Valley, One (Hugo) happens to be my brother, the other 2, Ernesto I happended to attend school with from elementrary on to High School and Anthony (yet to tell his story) went to school with Hector ('96). thanks for taking the time and for telling the story.

Luis Mariscal

This a great story, Howard, about a great Wabash man. Ernie is an inspiring and generous educator and family man. He's not a bad soccer player either. I'm so glad I can count him among my classmates.