Hundreds of administrators, faculty, students and community members gathered Wednesday morning to inaugurate the newest school in Santa Maria — Roberto and Dr. Francisco Jiménez Elementary School.
During the ceremony, organizers and administrators focused on honoring the namesakes of the school, located off of Blosser and Sonya Roads on Santa Maria's fast growing westside, as well as introducing the community to the new facility.
"We are here to honor brothers who not only attended Santa Maria schools, but who went on to become successful and responsible leaders in their careers, community, and family," said Jody Olivar, board president of the Santa Maria-Bonita School District. "In their personal and professional lives, they constantly reflected values for hard work, family respect and responsibilities, and lifelong learning through education."
In April the district's board voted to name the school, which will be known as Jiménez Elementary, after the brothers, who were not only immigrant farm workers but also students in the district. The late Roberto Jiménez worked in the district for 40 years, and Francisco Jiménez is a notable author who has been a professor at Santa Clara University for 43 years.
Roberto Jiménez went to work for the school district in 1957 as a night custodian and held various positions before retiring in 1995 as the purchasing supervisor. He died at age 75 last year.
"I had a difficult time finding words to express the deep and heartfelt gratitude I feel for everyone who was involved in naming this beautiful school in honor of Roberto and me," Francisco Jiménez said Wednesday.
Francisco Jiménez made sure to also note how important advocating for education has been to him and his brother throughout the years.
"The love and respect we had for each other and our work, and our commitment to education is now symbolized and literally set in stone, if you will," he said.
"We have visited schools in Santa Maria and all over California giving talks on the importance of education," he continued. "Education made it possible to escape poverty for better lives for us and our families."
Santa Maria natives Victoria Lopez and Cesar Servin attended the ceremony to congratulate Francisco Jiménez on his honor, a recognition they both said was well deserved.
"He's an inspiration," Servin said, after explaining that Francisco Jiménez's book "The Circuit" was what first helped him learn the English language.
"I think it's a historical achievement for the town to be able to name someone who grew up here," Lopez agreed firmly. "He is a great representation of the town and people who live here. "
Also at the event were tours of the classrooms, computer room, library, and administration office, courtesy of about 20 of the school's sixth graders and, of course, the ribbon cutting.
Eleven-year old Alexis Chavez was busy working and leading visitors in the right direction on campus.
"I am excited," he said with a smile. "We get to play a big role in the ribbon cutting, and get to show people the new features."
As a former Liberty Elementary student, Alexis is hoping that the new school will help him decide on a stable career. He said he has been torn between becoming an artist or an architect, but is ready to enjoy his time exploring both careers at the new school.
"I like the new things they have at the school, playgrounds and the smart touches where you can touch the screen," he noted.
Principal Richard Ruiz summed up the day's events, and set the school's future in motion.
"The entire staff at Jiménez is dedicated to helping students from all walks of life," Ruiz said. "We are here to help guide, challenge, and foster an educational environment that will lead itself to empower students to be marketable in a global economy."
"Jiménez Elementary is a place where students and staff will have ample opportunities to showcase talents, learn from one another, and value and respect each other's differences," he continued. "They will learn to love learning, seek out knowledge, love who they are, and appreciate where they came from."
School starts on Aug. 11.