Director of Operations, Chicago Public SchoolsShare your story
“The American Dream is no longer the house. We saw people lose that in 2007 and 2008. You get yourself an education and no one can take that away from you.”
Victor Herrera represents the true essence of the American Dream, which has been evolving into something quite different. “The American Dream is no longer the house. We saw people lose that in 2007 and 2008. You get yourself an education and no one can take that away from you,” he says. Victor was born in Mexico. His parents immigrated to the United States and left Victor to live with his maternal grandparents until he was nine. “After my grandfather passed away I always claimed there was a dark cloud over me,” he says. After living with his aunts in Mexico, Victor was eventually sent to live with his parents in the United States in 1986. At age thirteen he worked with his parents at a restaurant as the dishwasher making less than minimum wage. Eventually, young Victor was able to enroll in school, but he was off to a rocky start. He recalls being bullied as a result of his skin color and limited ability to speak proper English. “I endured being punched, kicked, and spat on in my face,” he says. Nonetheless, these incidents did not deter Victor from achieving success and his developing love for this country. Soon enough, Victor became a United States citizen thanks to the 1986 Immigration and Control Act. In 1994 he finally qualified and applied, passing all the requirements so that he may finally call himself a United States citizen. Victor then left his job as a dishwasher and found employment at a meat factory working long hours. At one point, he was clocking over a hundred hours a week. He attributes the development of his strong work ethic to his late grandfather, who inspired Victor at a very young age to always seek out new opportunities. As fate would have it, one of Victor’s friends and band member decided to attend Robert Morris College as a Computer Networking student and he encouraged Victor to apply with him. Victor, who never turns down an opportunity for a new experience, applied and was accepted. It was at this very moment, that Victor’s professional career path would drastically change directions.
While taking classes at Robert Morris, Victor began volunteering during his spare time at Thomas Kelly High School. Upon graduating with his associate degree in computer networking, Victor was offered a part-time position at the school. Victor held his part-time job at Thomas Kelly High School for ten years before accepting a full-time position in the District Office managing IT Programs. Professional mentors at Kelly High School encouraged Victor to pursue his bachelor degree, and so that is just what Victor did. It wasn’t long before Victor had earned his bachelor degree in computer science from DeVry. But he didn’t stop there – Victor pushed forward and before he knew it he had completed all graduation requirements for the Master of Information Systems degree from Robert Morris University. This degree opened more doors for Victor and in 2013 he returned to Thomas Kelley High School for a promotion as the Director of Operations. Throughout his career, Victor has worked with over 117 schools and roughly 1000 interns. At least 100 of his interns have been Robert Morris University students. “Robert Morris, being dear to my heart, is why I always reach out to them [Robert Morris University] first,” he says proudly. He has a strong passion for education and working with youth and young adults in such transitional phases of their life. Victor pushes his interns to go beyond the mere act of earning a class credit and informs them, “I am going to challenge you, but you have to challenge me on what you want to get out of this.” If they are interested, he promises his interns that they will leave him with a much stronger resume than when they began.
In addition to his work as the Director of Operations, Victor is also involved with a plethora of organizations: Board of the Illinois Technology Foundation, Lead for Organizing for Action Chicago North Chapter, National Advisory Board Co-Chair for Organizing for Action, and President for the National Society of Hispanic MBAs Chicago Chapter. Last summer, Victor was chosen to go to Washington, D.C. as a Representative of Organizing for Action and he met and had dinner with President Barack Obama. “This country has been very grateful to me to gain status, get an education, and work,” he says humbly.