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Although Herman has lived most of his life in East Los Angeles, where he attended Hollenbeck Junior High and graduated from Roosevelt High School, he was born in Gallup, New Mexico, site of a big Annual Intertribal Ceremonial Powwow. As a young man, while visiting family in New Mexico, he stopped to have his photo taken near a sign he saw on the way to Taos. The village name dates back to 1855, when David Velarde named his post office for his Spanish born ancestor, Juan Antonio Perez Velarde. The name is the same, but as far as he knows, these particular Velardes are probably not directly related.


Roadrunner NM State Bird

Little Beaver Dancers Dulce NM Another Velarde (who shares no known relationship to Herman) was the Jicarilla Apache Chief James Garfield Velarde, reported to have lived to the age of 108. He was given his name by Spanish missionaries in honor of the 20th President of the United States. The Little Beaver Roundup Dancers (above), are from the Jicarilla Reservation in Dulce, New Mexico. Bottom line? Over two million Native Americans live in New Mexico. Some may be relatives.


The quilt (right), was created for Herman by his sister, Flora and her daughter, Andrea. The photo (below left), was taken when Herman graduated from Roosevelt High School in Los Angeles. Herman comes from a long line of veterans, many of whom served in the US Navy, so when he joined the Navy, (photo below right), he was following a long-established family tradition. Which brings us to the part about the career that inspired the HANDBOOK FOR AMERICA.

Velarde Quilt



Home from the Navy, Herman worked in real estate until he learned of a program called the Teacher Talent Search that was looking for potential teachers with roots in the community. He signed up, was selected and enrolled at Cal State L.A. where he earned his BS in Police Science Administration. His first teaching assignment was for sixth graders at Murchison Elementary School in the Ramona Gardens Project in East Los Angeles. Three years later, he transferred to City Terrace Elementary where he worked as a roaming teacher for Kindergarten through 3rd Grade. Subsequent assignments took him to Eastman Elementary and Bridge Street School where he taught 1st Grade, 3rd Grade, 4th Grade and finally, 6th Grade.

Responding to the need in his East L.A. community, Herman launched a private tutorial Summer School program for under-achievers, teaching grades 1-6 with 70 students in his classroom. It was for his Summer School that Herman developed his Intensified Reading and Math Academy program (IRMA), which he plans to adapt to print, CD and possibly DVD formats to help parents and teachers across the country apply his enhanced learning program for chronic under-achievers.

Seeking answers to the endemic Los Angeles Unified School District under-achievement and dropout rate, Herman was assigned the position of Community Relations Advisor, working with students, parents, teachers, education aides, school principals and superintendents to improve academic performance and lower dropout rates across the school district. In line with the community relations outreach program, Herman began teaching Adult Evening Classes in English as a Second Language.

His next assignment as a Specialist for LAUSD Teachers in Non Public Schools, the district required a masters degree, so Herman enrolled at Mt. St. Mary's College and earned masters degrees in Education and Education Administration. His area of responsibility included 24 parochial schools and a total of 48 LAUSD math and reading teachers.

At that time, the LAUSD was seeking personnel with classroom experience, strong ties to the community, a masters degree in Administration and a counseling credential to fill the Regional Pupil Personnel Assignment. Herman enrolled at California Lutheran University and optained the required PSA Counseling Credential which resulted in his becoming a Regional Guidance and Truancy Counselor.


Gleaned from the September 28th Los Angeles Times article by staff writer Louis Sahagun.

Attendance officer Herman Velarde, a classical music enthusiast who was raised in Boyle Heights and graduated from Roosevelt High in 1954, tracks down and counsels chronic truants.   He finds students respond better to compassion than anger. He tells young offenders “You can live without education, but you can live better with it” and offers them a program of self-discipline designed to get them back on track.

During his 10 years as a truant officer, Velarde compiled a list of over a hundred reasons students stay home from school.  They include sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse, dysfunctional family, alchohol abuse, drug abuse, gang violence, lack of friends, low self esteem, lack of clean clothes, poor parental supervision, poor analytical skills, rumors, fear and bullying.

Velarde says “What keeps me going is that there are great kids around here.  Not taking care of them would be like a farmer not tending his crops.  Lose your crops, nobody eats.  Right?”

When he finally retired, Herman was deeply distressed by the continual onslaught of media reports of gang activities, rising dropout rates, low scholastic achievement and crime in schools across the nation, but out of the education field, felt there was little he could do about it.

And he was busy, working with his friend of many years, composer Gus Flaherty, as project coordinator for American-British Music Productions, promoting recordings and music and dance performances, such as the Tango Fiesta CD and World Premiere at the Beverly Hills Theater in 2003 -- which is when he met and first worked with Travis Pike.

In the ensuing years, Herman became familiar with Travis' work as a writer, producer, director, singer, songwriter, poet and storyteller. At the same time, the education news became ever more bleak, so Herman proposed that with his background in education and community relations and Travis' special skills, they should write a book together that would provide guidance and direction for educators, students and others seeking an avenue to success. Travis signed on and that book is the HANDBOOK FOR AMERICA.