Jose Aguiniga gives back to MTHS through new staff position

Aguiniga smiles at a student while they tell him a joke.

By Stephi Smith, Executive Editor

A year and a half later and the job has only gotten better for on-time graduation coordinator Jose Aguiniga.

Before MTHS, Aguiniga has gained experience of working with kids and young adults at the Alderwood Boys & Girls Club, the YMCA and Meadowdale Middle School. However, he felt he wanted to come back to MTHS as he graduated from here in 2009.

“[MTHS] was my school,” he said.

As on-time graduation coordinator, Aguiniga is in charge of seeking out and working with students through access of their grades and teacher referrals to ensure they have the proper amount of credits required to graduate. He described the job as a “great chance to give back” to his alma mater.

He originally applied for In-School Suspension Coordinator, but when David Whalen was hired for the job, principal Greg Schwab said he still wanted to have Aguiniga in the school. Later, when graduation coordinator opened up after the last three people left the job, Schwab gave Aguiniga a call to offer the position. While Schwab doesn’t believe this one job will be Aguiniga’s career, he does have hope he’ll stay in it for a while after seeing how much he loves it.

Schwab’s first impression of Aguiniga was how much he loved his energy and how well he saw him work with students.

Aguiniga was hired in December 2016 and said the job has only improved. More responsibilities came along, such as directing after-school study club, finding in-school tutors for struggling students along with more to oversee and work with. Also, Aguiniga runs the hip-hop team at MTHS and advises their after-school practices.

Schwab said he saw Aguiniga improve most with organization skills. With the amount of students he helps, it’s hard to organize all of their individual information. But through Outlook, among other organizational skills, he’s been able to track data and various assignments.

Schwab and Aguiniga work alongside one another, Schwab works alongside Aguiniga throughout the year, offering advice and checking in with him to record progress. The two bounce ideas off each other, Schwab said, about how to handle certain situations.

“Schwab’s awesome. He’s always available and works with me all the time” Aguiniga said.

As for his job requirements, Aguiniga collects missing assignments from teachers, works with said teachers to clarify any other work that should be handled, enforces after school and lunch study club and “Saturday school” for those who need the extra help. He also arranges parent meetings so the families can be kept in the loop and provide any extra support needed for their student.

Mostly, he works with juniors and seniors who have fallen behind and helps to ensure they graduate with the rest of their class.

It’s a mandatory group effort, Aguiniga said, among teachers, students and himself. It can be hard to ask for some things from some teachers, though. Schwab said that if a teacher has a certain rule for how late-work is handled in their classroom, it’s difficult to ask them to change that for one student. But he’s been able to come to a compromise with those teachers, he continued.

Schwab said that, as for working alongside the students, it means Aguiniga is required to be “a cheerleader, a coach, a drill sargeant, a facilitator.” Also, he’s constantly moving about the school as he helps students.

“[People have] walked by his office,” Schwab said. “There’s always students in there.”

Aguiniga joked that his relationship with students is “mostly positive,” looking at two students in the after-school study club who giggled at this.

He’s seen major changes from students in relation to their school work, he said. He’s seen them raise grades and overall perform better in their classes.

“But it wasn’t me,” he clarified. “It was them who changed their behavior.”

When he attended MTHS, Aguiniga said he was of the students who had a difficult time in classes. He needed support from his teachers and other staff at school and he wants to be able to give that same support to students now.

That was an important role in hiring Aguiniga, Schwab said.

“He knows the game. He knows the excuses, he’s heard them all, he’s probably used a couple of them himself,” Schwab joked.

As for his biggest challenge relating to the job? Not taking it home with him. He loves his job so much he doesn’t know when to stop working. He often finds himself at MTHS long after the day is over.

“I think all staff has that problem of remembering to go home,” Aguiniga said.

His favorite memory of the last year he recalled as graduation day. Every staff member is invited to work on the commencement ceremony and Aguiniga saw it as an opportunity to see some of the students he’s noticed work so hard for their diploma be handed it. He loved seeing some of the students walk across the stage to receive their diploma. He loves the happiness at graduation, everything about it. The families, the pictures, all of it. He loves the reward that comes from hard work and dedication from these kids.

“It’s great to see four years of hard work all put into one day,” Aguiniga said, smiling.