In 1989 when Ron Gonzales, then mayor of Sunnyvale, California, visited a group of middle school students, many were surprised that someone who looked like them could achieve such a prominent position in the community. After his experience, Mr. Gonzales created The Role Model Program to supplement the work of parents, teachers and schools, and to inspire children to be achievers.
The mission of the program is to empower middle school students to realize their potential by using community and business leaders of Santa Clara County as sources of inspiration. Today, 150 Role Models representing successful individuals from the public and private sectors volunteer in the classroom. They "adopt" the classroom for four visits, utilizing a specially designed curriculum to facilitate discussion around positive life choices such as: staying in school, avoiding gang involvement, avoiding drugs and alcohol and planning a career. In addition, the program provides parents with information relative to a student's educational development
Another segment of The Role Model Program is Twelve Together. This program serves 12 to 15 young people who are performing below a D level. Each student is paired with a college mentor who works with the student to overcome his or her personal and academic problems.
Under Mr. Gonzales' leadership, the program has grown from five schools to 28 schools covering 15 districts and serving more than 5,000 students.
Although Mr. Gonzales is no longer mayor of Sunnyvale, he continues to further educational opportunities for students. He is a classroom role model and co-instructor of the Student Leadership Program that is designed to teach leadership skills to community college students.