JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A recent issue of a Jacksonville-area magazine published for the Spanish speaking community calls John Avendano, the President and CEO of Florida State College Jacksonville, an “educator of the future.”
Avendano is also an educator for right now and the product of his history.
“My actual name is Juan Avendano Jr., named after my dad,” he said.
Both of his parents are from Mexico and immigrated to the Chicago area before he was born.
His father was 20 years old. His mother -- just 16.
“Back when I was growing up in Aurora, there weren’t many people from Mexico or people of Latin descent or Hispanic descent,” Avendano said.
The president of FSCJ says his parents shared with him values that include working harder, and really their message was to work smarter.
They are a key reason he pursued higher education and why he leads in the community college setting.
“Even though they didn’t have any formal education themselves, they realized that to be successful in this country you really need to have -- you need to speak the language, and you need to have a good solid education to be successful,” Avendano said. “And so they really instilled that in me at a very, very young age.”
Avendano learned English at the same time his parents did. He also proudly followed a tradition of having a close family.
While he’s working hard on a daily basis at FSCJ, Avendano says he doesn’t remember his parents ever taking a day off from their factory jobs.
“I have felt a great sense of pride of my heritage, my background and the things that, again, that my parents worked for,” he said.
Did the Chicago-area boy with Mexican parents face discrimination or hardship? Yes. But he says he never let racist comments stop him from achieving.
“I put them off to immature, ignorant-type comments of the times,” he said.
Now, one of his great joys in life is the goal of community colleges. He calls them the gateway to higher education and training, and to a better life.
“That’s our mission. That’s our purpose is to help those who maybe, who may not have the luxuries that others have,” Avendano said. “And through our work and our effort, it helps them overcome those obstacles, so I have a personal vested interest in seeing the people get successful.”