The Cardenas family has a motto: “A family shows its strength when times are hard.” Reflecting on that motto, the family agrees that it has served them well.
Chacha Cardenas has spent her entire career in the Imperial County Office of Education working with at-risk youth. The real evidence of the passion she has for working with youth in the Imperial Valley, however, is that all four of her children have pursued careers working with at-risk youth as well.
Cardenas began her career in 1980 as a teacher’s aide when ICOE opened a program for alternative education at the Valley Community School in El Centro. She now works as an office assistant. The Valley Community School serves high-risk youth on probation or in difficult situations.
She loves spending her day at the community school. She loves the students. She relates to them as a mother — quick to give a hug and a compliment. She encourages them, not only academically, but personally as well.
Every day Cardenas greets the children as they come into the school. “It’s good that you came today,” she says. “We have been waiting for you.”
She lets every child know she is happy he or she came to school.
“When I see a child, I see love,” says Cardenas. “I never see what happens in their homes, or in their lives, I only see who they are at school. I focus on that, and I encourage them to be the best that they can be.”
“Her greatest gift is that she brings positive encouragement to the work culture at school,” says Elizabeth Goff, fiscal manager of alternative education and Cardenas’ daughter, who has been working alongside her mother for the last 20 years.
“People always ask me if it is hard working with your mother everyday,” says Goth. “I say, no. Mom and I have always had a great respect for each other at our jobs. We are very professional at work. We have always had that relationship, but it is because we are both very happy with our jobs — that is why it works.”
Read more about Cardenas in the April 2013 edition of Valley Women Magazine in print.