Maria Chavez’s journey to Archer


Photo credit: Eden Motzkin

Maria Chavez on the Archer campus. Photo by Eden Motzkin.

Right now, Maria Chavez is hard at work somewhere on the Archer campus. Chavez has been described as a vital part of the Archer community, but unbeknownst to most students, it took a long and difficult journey to get here.

Journey to the United States

Chavez was born in Guatemala and said that working there was challenging because of financial concerns.

“[I only made] a little money. [It was] hard for me,” Chavez said. She told herself, “I need to go to LA or [the] United States because of my kids. …  I need to go to school.”

In 1990, Chavez made the decision to move to the United States with an acquaintance. 

Her friend in America promised to help her with the challenging journey, but Chavez was unable to get in contact with her when they reached the border. She said she felt emotionally distraught, not sure how they would cross. They then found out that there were two friends from Guatemala nearby, also on the border. In a display of teamwork, they were able to distract the patrolling coyotes so that Chavez and her companion could escape. 

After escaping, they did not know where to go, Chavez said. They hid in a trailer home, and then knocked on a stranger’s door. A woman answered and, understanding their situation, invited them into her house. She took both Chavez and her companion to a refugee center in Arizona. Chavez was safe in the center from the police. This was only the beginning of the challenges she would overcome, including learning English and finding a job in a new country. 

She later moved to California and found a new home in Archer in 2000.

Life at Archer

Chavez’s strong work ethic and positive attitude inspires her colleagues. 

Upper School Coordinator Kim Smith, Division Coordinator and Registrar Mindy Stone and Head of Facilities Janet Lyon all used similar adjectives to describe Chavez’s kind and dedicated demeanor. 

“I have so many words that I could [use] — hardworking, definitely dedicated and a team member,” Lyon said. “What we all do here is very much a family. She has been here a long, long time, is very much part of facilities, very much a part of the community, and is a lovely, wonderful lady.” 

She shared a side of Chavez most Archer students don’t see during the school year.

“She loves to play her music loud over summer when you girls are not here,” she said. “Over summer or breaks when they are here and the school is empty, each of the facilities [members] likes different music, and so I always know where each one of them is because I can hear their music   playing, and when she is outside — say, hosing down and washing chairs and all these things that happen that [students] do not necessarily think about over summer, getting things ready — she’s got her rain boots on and her music playing. So that’s a side of her that not everyone sees.” 

Chavez’s colleagues witness her positive effect on the community.

“Every day she takes time out of her busy schedule to say, ‘Buenos dias! Que paso?’, and it makes me pause and makes me feel more connected with the community,” Smith said.

Chavez said her responsibilities change daily, from setting up event spaces to making sure the campus looks clean. 

“[The facilities staff] are small but mighty, and she is a big part of that,” Stone said. “It is sort of obvious to everyone because you can just tell that Maria is a crucial part of that puzzle on the facilities team.” 

“The Archer community couldn’t function if it wasn’t for facilities,” Lyon said, “and Ms.Chavez is a part of that.” 

Correction Statement May 9 2017 7:09 pm: The original version of this article included an incorrect transcription of one source’s statement. It has now been corrected to be exactly what was said.