Lucy Marquez, secretary II at Hood River Valley High School, is a 15-year employee of the Hood River County School District. Having lived in Hood River since the age of 5, she has a unique perspective on the local school system — and on what has changed, and what has stayed the same.
Marquez came to Hood River from Colotlan, Jalisco, Mexico, with her family. She attended Mid Valley Elementary and Wy’east Middle School, graduating from HRVHS in 1990.
When Marquez started elementary school, there were “only three or four of us who were Hispanic,” she said. There were no English Learner classes then; an instructional assistant would periodically pull her out of class for a half hour to an hour, and the rest of the time she was in a regular classroom. Learning English was not an option — she had to in order to understand what was going on around her, and she learned quickly in that environment.
After graduating from high school, Marquez stayed in Hood River, finding employment with the telephone company, then called Sprint. Several years later, she was ready for a change.
“I had my daughter and I knew I wanted to spend more time with her,” she said. When a secretarial position at Mid Valley opened up, Marquez applied. “I thought, ‘What a great way to be on the same schedule as my daughter when she goes to kindergarten,’” she said. Gail Lyon, then principal, hired her, “and it was the best move I could have made, especially with younger kids,” she said.
Marquez began working at the secretary at Mid Valley in 1998, alongside two of her former teachers, Patty Gilkerson and JoAnn Frazier. And as a Mid Valley student with only three Hispanic classmates, she noticed something else, too.
“I was amazed at the (Hispanic) population,” she said. “So many more Hispanic kids than when I was there.” She was also pleased to see that the school had bilingual teachers.
Marquez enjoyed her time at Mid Valley. “I loved working with the little kids and seeing their happy faces,” she said. “Or, if they came in crying… it’s amazing what an ice pack and a band-aid will do.”
Six years later, she found herself ready for another change. The Pine Grove Elementary secretary retired, and she applied for the position. She had heard that Pine Grove was a great school and community, she said (“And I was right!”), and “just wanted to see the difference in the community.”
When Pine Grove Elementary closed six years later (it became the center for Head Start and Early Learning programs in 2011), Marquez found herself in a fortunate position. “The person who was in my position (at the high school) was moving on to another state,” she explained. “This position opened, and they were able to slip me in.”
Because she was used to working with elementary-aged students, Marquez was, at first, nervous about the change.
“I was worried. I wasn’t sure how the kids were going to react,” she said. She had also heard that high school students didn’t tend to be very polite. “But that’s not true,” she added.
As secretary II, Marquez is on the front lines in the guidance office. Her days often depend on the time of year. For example, students will begin forecasting for next year’s classes after winter break, and Marquez helps enter the information on the computer.
Each spring, she orders diplomas for the graduating students, and toward the end of the year, she sends out the senior classes final transcripts “to where the student requests them to be sent; mostly to the colleges.”
There’s also the day-to-day help she provides the students. Kids come into the guidance office for all sorts of reasons, and it’s her job to sort them out.
“They don’t come in for an ice pack anymore; they’re all grown up,” said Marquez.
Sometimes, it’s a problem for one of the school’s counselors. Often, she’s able to help the student herself.
“If someone new comes in, I help them fill out the paperwork,” she explained. “If a student withdraws, I’m in charge of all that paperwork, too.” If a student needs a file sent to a new school, or transcripts sent to a college, Marquez is the one who gets the information in the mail. And for new students, she also makes appointments for placement testing and a visit with a guidance counselor “so they can decide what classes they need.”
Sometimes parents come in, too, and want to talk to a counselor. If the parents do not speak English, Marquez is there to translate.
“I do a little of everything,” she said.
When Marquez started her position at the high school, she discovered that the first graduating class she would help in the guidance office included the first kindergartners she enrolled in Mid Valley 12 years earlier.
“Most of them did remember (me),” she said. “Some of them didn’t remember my name, but they remembered I was the secretary when I was at Mid Valley.
“It was nice to see them when they were little, and nice to see them here,” she added. “It was emotional for me.”
As a high school alumnus, Marquez is amazed at how much the school has grown in the years since she graduated. Enrollment is now around the 1,300 mark, so while the school is bigger than it was during her high school years, it’s almost too small for the current population.
“I hate to admit this, but I still don’t know where all the classes are,” she said.
Growing up in Hood River, Marquez didn’t expect to work at the high school — or Mid Valley, for that matter — but feels that working for the school district is the best decision she could have made.
Marquez and her husband, Fernando, have three children. Daughter Monica, the oldest, graduated from HRVHS in June of this year. Sons Fernando and Leo are seventh- and sixth-graders, respectively, at Wy’east Middle School.
Working for the school district has made her more involved in both the schools and the community, she said, and that is one of the reasons she is happy to have stayed in her hometown.
“It’s a safe town,” she said. “My kids are able to walk to school on late starts and I know they’re going to be safe.” She also loves the seasons, and how she knows most of the community. “That’s why it’s so safe here,” she added. “I can walk down the road and I can wave hi. I know who my neighbors are.”