Benjamin Chavez Aguirre was looking for English classes when he moved to Los Angeles from Tijuana, Mexico. At his sister’s suggestion, he began ESL classes at PUENTE. He went on to enroll in High School Diploma and Computer Applications as well.

While a student at PUENTE, Benjamin was an overnight food service worker, a bartender, and a young father. He worked from 6 pm – 2 am, got home, tried to sleep for a few hours, and then caught the bus to be at PUENTE by 6 am. Benjamin says, “I was tired, but I developed a routine. I learned to work on my time management.”

After four years of classes at PUENTE, Benjamin completed the ESL program and graduated with a High School Diploma in 2013.  After graduating, he enrolled in the Respiratory Care Practitioner Program at East Los Angeles College.

Benjamin says PUENTE prepared him for college course work. Benjamin was confident going to all his classes. He says, “PUENTE did an amazing job preparing me.” When he took the placement exams, Benjamin placed at college level English and Communications. He recalled, “feeling better prepared than people who clearly had more education than I did”. Benjamin continued to study, work, and raise a family over the next four years. Thanks to the foundation laid by PUENTE, he was able to successfully manage all his responsibilities and graduate with an Associate’s Degree in Respiratory Therapy from East Los Angeles College.

In June 2018, Benjamin received his certification from the National Board of Respiratory Care (NBRC). He is now employed at Kaiser Permanente as a Respiratory Therapist Practitioner. Benjamin says he is always working to better himself and his family. His next goal is to earn his Bachelor’s Degree in Respiratory Care.

Benjamin will always remember PUENTE as a “place to grow.” He looks back at the sacrifices he made to be in class every day. “I remember being on the bus on my way to school. People take transportation for granted. Now, I’m grateful for my two cars.”