(KLST/KSAN)– There are many Hispanic leaders across the Concho Valley beginning with the San Angelo school district.

Gerard Gallegos is one of those leaders. He has been a secretary for the SAISD school board for 16 years.

He said working with the kids is very rewarding, especially first-generation graduates.

“And really the best thing I love is the last day of school watching these kids graduate and cross that stage,” Gallegos said.

Through his position Gallegos sees a lot of students who work their way through high school. He said he encourages those students to take advantage of the programs offered through SAISD. Howard College, and the West Texas Training Center.

“Welding classes, automotive, AP classes, your advanced courses I mean you’ve got everything, everything that we offer for them all they got to do is pick and choose what they want to do,” Gallegos said.

Gallegos said he attends the graduation ceremony for Howard College every year. He said he is amazed by how the number of SAISD students walk across the stage grows every time.

“When I first went there were 30, maybe under 30 kids,” Gallegos said. “Then the last time I went there were over 100 kids leaving with an associate degree, meaning if they want to go to work right after high school, they’ve got something to fall back on.”

He said it is important to encourage students to not only graduate but have a plan for after high school.

“That’s what worries me because we see so many smart, I see so many smart kids that are out there and they are trying and trying their hardest and so yeah, it doesn’t stop, you don’t stop worrying about them,” Gallegos said.

He said he makes it his job to help students figure out a plan after graduation.

Gallegos wants to leave students with one message.

“No matter what you want to do, all you got to do it pick,” Gallegos said. “You got to pick. You know, you want to do journalism, you want to do this, go after it. We will provide you the means, you just do the work. That’s what I love about that.”