Career Technical Education: Claudia Espinoza

Claudia Espinoza was born in Santa Ana, but at the age of 2, moved to Mexico where she grew up for 14 years. At 16, her family moved back to California where she spent long days going to school, completed homework in the afternoon in a language she barely understood, then attended ESL classes until 10 p.m. Through hard work and dedication, she started to speak and write in English within a year.

After high school, Claudia earned a medical assistant certificate from Santa Ana College and continued pursuing an associate degree until realizing that she was not passionate about the field. It wasn’t until she started working as an assistant manager at a restaurant that she discovered her love for hospitality.

Claudia is graduating with associate of arts degrees in hospitality management, and food and beverage management. She is transferring to Cal State Long Beach in the fall to pursue a bachelor’s degree in hospitality management and ultimately aspires to become a director of food and beverage at a full-service resort.

Please tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up? What are your interests? What is your story?
My name is Claudia, I was born in Santa Ana, California. At the age of 2, my parents decided to move back to Mexico, where I grew up and lived for 14 years. At the age of 16, my parents decided it was time for us to come back to the United States in hopes of a better life and future. Moving to the United States was a major change in my life; I was in a place I did not know, and I did not speak any English. I started going to high school soon after we moved. That first year of high school was the most challenging. I remember I cried out of frustration at the end of the first day of school because I did not understand anything, but after that, I set my mind on working hard to learn English and being able to communicate and understand what was happening around me. My days were long. I was going to my regular classes in the morning, then going home after school to do homework, which was another challenge. To be able to do my homework, I had to translate all of it to Spanish on Google Translate to be able to do it, after finishing I translated it back to English so my teachers could understand and grade my assignments. After homework, I had to go to ESL classes at Santa Ana College until 10 p.m. and start all over again the next morning. Thanks to all that hard work and dedication, I started to speak and write English within a year. I graduated from NOVA Academy Early College High School in 2010.

After high school, I continued attending Santa Ana College where I achieved a medical assistant certificate. When I was close to completing the requirements for the associate degree, I changed my major to Spanish. I knew then that I liked working with people, but what I was pursuing was not my passion. I did not know exactly what I wanted to do until I started working in restaurants. I worked as assistant manager at a restaurant, and that is when I discovered my love for hospitality. After a break from school, I decided to go back to school and pursue a career in hospitality and food and beverage. Now, I am close to completing my courses to earn my associate degrees in hospitality management, and food and beverage management. I will transfer to Cal State Long Beach this upcoming fall to pursue a bachelor’s degree in hospitality management.

Why did you choose Cypress College?
I chose Cypress College by suggestion of my sister. One day I was talking to her about my plans of going back to school and she suggested that I look into the HRC program, so I did. After going through the curriculum, I became interested and enrolled in the program.

What have you been involved in at Cypress College? How has your path unfolded?
I have been involved in the Hospitality, Restaurant, and Culinary Arts Program. As a student in this program, I had the opportunity to be part of the management team on opening week for the Cypress Bistro, and was part of the team that operated the front of the house of the Cypress Bistro through the fall of 2018. I was also involved in Hospitality Career Expo 2019, where students have the opportunity to gain some hands-on experience creating and executing an event.

The HRC program has played an important role unfolding my path. I have learned and received information that has helped me understand my options in the hospitality industry. Our professors are passionate about their careers, and share their passion and experience with their students. They also are committed to our education and prepare us to be successful in this industry.

What are you most passionate about? Why?
I am most passionate about learning new things. I also love traveling and food, which is why I majored in hospitality and food and beverage management. I believe there is always room for improvement, and we can learn new things every day. Learning new things helps me to have an open mind to new ideas, especially in this industry because there are always new trends and technology changing the way we do things. I love visiting new places and learning about their cultures and their food.

Who are the faculty and staff that have helped you get where you are today?
All of my instructors in the HRC program have contributed to my academic success, especially Professor Lisa Clark, who has motivated me with her passion for hospitality and her dedication toward her students’ education and success. She is encouraging and her enthusiasm is contagious. I am extremely grateful for having her as a professor.

What are your immediate plans after completing your studies at Cypress College (at your transfer institution, in the workforce, etc.)?
My immediate plans after graduating from Cypress College are starting my education at Cal State Long Beach in the fall of 2019 and earning my bachelor’s degree in hospitality management, while working in the industry.

What are your long-term goals? What do you aspire to?
My long-term goals are to become a director of food and beverage at a full-service resort, travel the world, and maintain a healthy balance in my life.

What are you most proud of?
I am most proud of being where I am right now. I am doing what I love, and I am about to graduate from Cypress College and transfer to CSULB. This would not have been possible if I had not had the support of my family and my professors.

What one bit of advice would you give to current and future Cypress College students?
One bit of advice that I would give to current and future students is: “Don’t be scared of dreaming big.” If you work hard for what you want, you can achieve anything you set your mind on.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?
“Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice, and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do.” -Pele