It took 20 years of schooling for Gilbert Gonzales to save babies for a living and earn nearly $100,000 a year.
The 30-year-old pediatrician, speaking to a math class at San Fernando Middle School Thursday, assured the youngsters that they can accomplish the same, because he sat in their desks 16 years ago.
"Anybody here has an opportunity to do that," said Gonzales, who graduated from the school in 1977. "You guys are about halfway there."
Gonzales took part in the school's second annual Alumni/Career Day, which brought about 30 attorneys, engineers and other professionals to the campus to expose the students to successful role models. Many of the participants are graduates of the school.
During his talk before a seventh-grade English class, CSUN professor Everto Ruiz used books about murals and Mexican-American artists to illustrate his teaching career. "When you're in junior high, the last thing you think about is more school," said Ruiz, who attended from 1957 to 1960. But "the more degrees you get," he said, "the more you're usually qualified to get more pay."
While many questions centered on salary ("How much do you make?") and perks ("What kind of car do you drive?"), some of them took the encouragement to heart.
Angel Galdamez, 14, said he appreciated hearing tales of how Gonzales treated sick infants and injured children. "I want to be a doctor so I could get to help someone like Mr. Gonzales did," he said.