Shared Stories: Finding a Way

As a high school student, Daniela Kanz faced the possibility that family financial problems might prevent her from graduating.  She not only found a way to succeed, she continued a pattern of lifelong learning to advanced degrees. Shared Stories is a weekly column featuring articles by participants in a writing class at the Norwalk Senior Center. Bonnie Mansell is the instructor for this free class offered through the Cerritos College Adult Education Program.  Curated by Carol Kearns

By Daniela Kanz

My high school diploma is probably the first of my academic and professional accomplishments. I most likely would not have finished high school without the special program that was available to me.  As a Cooperative Student, I alternated working at the Lord & Taylor Department Store in Manhattan with attending school every other week. This allowed me to help my family financially, yet still stay in school until graduation. 

In my senior year of high school, I took the Federal Civil Service exam, which led to a job at the Internal Revenue Service office in Brooklyn. The IRS job did not last long as I had an opportunity to work for the Meadowbrook National Bank on Pine Street near Wall Street at a higher wage. Typing on a typewriter that had huge letters to imprint the names of the owners on stock certificates is a fond memory. 

As I traveled on the subway to and from work, I kept noticing the advertisements for the Speedwriting Secretarial School. I decided to enroll, with my eye on a promotion to secretary. Upon completion of the course, I became secretary to the manager of our branch.

After earning enough vacation time, I made a trip to Lakewood, California, to visit friends. I followed their suggestion to check out North American Aviation in Downey for a job – just to see what might transpire. 

I passed the stenography test, but they offered me the clerk-typist position for more salary than I made at the bank as a secretary. When I called my boss at the bank to tell him I would not be returning to New York from vacation, he was not surprised. 

He stated, “I was stationed in California during the war. I knew you wouldn’t be back.” I worked for North American (later Rockwell) for five years and during that time met the man who would become my husband.  We had a whirlwind courtship and married in 1962.  I continued working until 1964 when I had my first child. 

Intermittently between children – I had two more, one in 1966 and one in 1969 – I worked as a waitress out of the union hall.  I felt comfortable going back to work and adding to the family income, and this job allowed me the flexible hours needed for my children.

My sister-in-law encouraged me to join her, and I made more money working part-time as a waitress than I did in an office. It was a great experience, with so many fond memories, but that is another story.

For a variety of reasons, we moved to Hobbs, New Mexico, in 1975 where we had our own business – Kanz & Daughters Chesport Mart. It was a little store with a couple of gas pumps  –  similar to a Seven-Eleven -  and the working hours allowed us more family time together. 

Our adventure into entrepreneurism did not go well. My job at the Sears Catalog Store in Hobbs provided additional income to the family. I enjoyed working the teletype machine, typing the customer orders and transmitting to Dallas. I challenged myself to exceed the amount of orders typed from one day to the next. 

As a part-time employee, I received no benefits, so I wanted to go back to office work where I might earn higher wages and benefits. 

Since I had no recent work experience in an office, I went to New Mexico Junior College to get a Secretarial Certificate. I was so glad I did as I was able to land a job at a bank as a word processing operator on an IBM Mag Card system.

I progressed to supervisor of a five-unit CPT Word Processing Center at the bank and developed a unique reporting system to management. For this I received recognition in a magazine and a certificate for this accomplishment.

As things progressed, I decided to complete an Associate of Arts Degree.  I had come a long way from being the young girl who had once faced the possibility of not finishing high school.    
Sadly, the bank crisis of the ‘80s hit our bank. When the Word Processing Center closed, I became a secretary in the Consumer Loan Department. I watched with trepidation when the FDIC agents came through the bank. The bank failed soon after.

In 1985, we came to Los Angeles for my husband’s South Gate High School 25th Class Reunion. Norris Industries, where he previously worked, asked him to return. I found a job as a teacher of computer software, typing, and career development at the Travel and Trade Career Institute in Long Beach.

In time I took advantage of a better opportunity and worked for eleven years at a company called ElectroCom Automation.  This company installed the 9-1-1 system for the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department. 

When I started, the company was still in contract negotiations, so I worked the contract ‘from cradle-to-grave,’ as they say. After completing the system, the company managed a maintenance agreement.

I was able to further my education and attend the University of Phoenix while employed at ElectroCom.  At that time, one could complete two years of credits in eighteen months. I really enjoyed working in Study Groups, which were a main feature of the program. The thought was that one could accomplish more in a group than individually.

I am grateful to ElectroCom for the financial assistance which enabled me to receive my Bachelor of Science, Business Administration degree in 1990.

I wanted to be a classroom teacher, but was terrified of taking the CBEST test required for a credential. When I applied for a classified position at the Paramount School District, the Superintendent was among the interview panel. He asked me why I did not teach adults. 

He said, “You don’t need the CBEST for an Adult Ed Credential.” He sent me all the information I needed about credential requirements. After earning my credential, I taught computer classes for the ABC Adult School District and Paramount Adult Education.

During my credential course work, I completed a research assignment that led to a Reciprocity Agreement between Cerritos College and ABC Adult School whereby a student at ABC taking a computer class could acquire college credit for that class at Cerritos College. I do not know if this agreement stands today.

While I am proud of my academic and professional accomplishments, they do not hold a candle to the accomplishment of being married to a wonderful man for a little over forty years and producing three daughters and two grandchildren. Only time will tell what accomplishments they may have in their lives.