MBA Graduate Hopes to be Role Model for Young Hispanics in Sacramento

There is a sharp dividing line in the low-income communities of Sacramento, a dramatic turning point at which underprivileged youth living in the barrios surrounding the state capitol may gain momentum and direction toward the American Dream, or they may end up in prison or addicted to drugs.

According to the Sacramento Bee, violent crime in the area jumped 24 percent last year, rising most rapidly in high poverty areas. A rise in gang activity is suspected to be the cause.  Admissions to treatment centers for heroin addiction in Sacramento County is up more than 33 percent, according to New Dawn Treatment Centers. A teen’s future can quickly take a positive or negative turn, depending upon prevailing influences.

National University alumni may appreciate this pivotal point more than most, with so many graduates serving as teachers, school administrators, or addiction counselors.  For recent graduate, Armando Orozco, (MBA, 2016) that decisive fork in the road is a profound and painful part of his family life.

Mr. Orozco is the second-youngest of eight children who grew up in the rough streets of Southern Sacramento. He is the son of Mexican immigrants who struggled to provide their kids with the opportunities they never had.

“My father was a landscaper,” Mr. Orozco says. “His way of life was working, so that’s what we all did. I became known in school as the short, chubby kid who mowed lawns.”

By the end of grade school, Mr. Orozco was fed up with being bullied, and if someone made fun of him, they might get punched in the face. Whether it was a brother or a bully, somebody was always challenging young Armando. That was just the nature of the neighborhood. People would push a youngster until he pushed back.

“I was constantly fighting, whether it was at home, in the classroom, or out on the playground,” he says.  “And I was always getting in trouble.  One day, my dad said, ‘That’s it. You’re done with school. It’s time to go to work.’  So I joined an R.O.P. program and became an iron working apprentice at the age of 17.”

The high school dropout bounced around in the construction industry, and eventually worked for Lowes and Home Depot in managerial positions. “I was always successful whatever I did, but I felt that I wasn’t really doing what I was fully capable of.”

When the future National University graduate reached a supervisorial role with the Elk Grove Unified School District and later with Washington Unified School District in West Sacramento, he realized that he would have to earn a bachelor’s degree to continue moving up.  It was important to him, because he had purchased “a small fixer-upper” on five acres in Wilton, and was building a new home.   Also, his wife had just earned her master’s degree at National University.  She encouraged her husband that if she could do it, so could he.

Mr. Orozco started his academic journey by earning his G.E.D. in 1997.  Thirteen years later, he decided to pursue his bachelor’s degree at National University. “I met with an advisor, Brandon Jouganatos. At first I said, ‘I don’t know if I can do this.’ But Brandon talked me into it. He convinced me to believe in myself.”

In November 2014, Mr. Orozco graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree, and less than two years later he completed the MBA program.  In many ways, higher education was a necessity for him. “I just had back surgery last August.  It was just one of 12 surgeries I’ve undergone from working construction.  I’ve broken my foot a couple of times and have had trouble over the years with my shoulders.  Gradually, my body has been breaking down, so I knew I had to invest in my mind.” 

There is another motivating factor that is important to Mr. Orozco’s success. He lost two brothers to drug addiction, including his youngest sibling, who died last year. Another brother fell into the drug and gang life, and has spent his last 30 years in and out of prison (going back behind bars recently after serving a six-year prison term and being out for less than a year).

“That’s just what I grew up with. That was the environment I was raised in, and I’m sad to say that it’s all too common here.  But I never wanted to be a product of my environment,” he says. “On the contrary, it has been my ambition to shape my own destiny and influence my community – not the other way around.”

Mr. Orozco says that the Washington Unified School District is in an old Hispanic community. “The schools there are pretty run down and the neighborhood can be rough, so it kind of gives me a purpose for what I’m doing.  It means a lot to me that I’m a positive role model for the students there, and I have an impact on the younger guys that work for me. It’s always nice to see that.  It’s important for me to help those around me and give them some direction.”

The most important beneficiary of Mr. Orozco’s academic success and helpful attitude may be his 18-year-old daughter, who plans on completing her Associate of Arts degree at Sacramento City College and enrolling at University of California, Davis in fall 2018 to pursue her dream of becoming a psychiatrist.  He also hopes to inspire his eight-year-old and his five-year-old, and to continue to do so, the recent graduate, who recently participated in Sacramento commencement ceremonies, is contemplating enrollment in a doctoral program.

“National University has made a huge difference in my life and has allowed me to give back something to Sacramento.  Now, I want to encourage others to do the same,” he says.