Larry Porras, principal at Oak Hills High School, was born and raised in Riverside. His parents were each one of 10 children in their respective families. He grew up with 66 first cousins.
Porras graduated from La Sierra Academy in 1977 — an accomplishment he wasn't sure he'd actually reach until the day before graduation.
"I'd bet that at least one teacher gave me a passing grade at the last minute so they didn't have to deal with me anymore," Porras said. "This is why, today, I do my best to warn every senior to pass every class they need to graduate. I know firsthand what it was like to have upset my parents by being a slacker."
Porras said he had a perfect childhood. There's not one day he would change about it. Even the bad days made him who he is. When his mother was 9 months pregnant with him, she worked at a car wash, drying cars. Porras said to this day when he goes to a car wash he thinks about what it must have been like for her.
After high school, a friend told Porras he was enrolling in college. Porras remembered he had helped the friend pass biology in high school, and realized he was as smart as his friend. So, he enrolled in college too. He was able to get good grades for two years, which allowed him to transfer to the University of California, Los Angeles, a place he calls, "One of the greatest universities in the world." He said he took advantage of every support program the university offered and made it through "by the skin of my teeth."
Porras proudly noted that he, along with both his sisters, all earned their Master's Degrees.
With no plan after graduating, and after a few years of soul searching, Porras saw an ad in the Daily Press in 1987 for the brand new Hesperia Unified School District looking for substitute teachers. He tried it out, loved it and, after seeing another ad in the Daily Press, took teaching credential classes at Chapman College at the former George Air Force Base. He taught at Hesperia Junior High School for five years and then moved on to Hesperia High School as a vice principal during the 1993-94 school year. He was there for 15 years as an administrator, the last six of which were as principal. He moved to Oak Hills High School three years ago for its inaugural year.
"This is my 24th year in the district," Porras said. "It's been a fun ride."
Porras said he was lucky enough to attend both of his parents' high school graduation ceremonies. His mother received hers in 1966 when he was 7 years old. This summer, he presented his dad a diploma through Operation Recognition, which confers diplomas to Veterans of Foreign War, who weren't able to finish high school because of their service to their country.
Porras and his wife, Mary, who is an administrator at Canyon Ridge High School, have five children, Stephanie, 30, Tony, 27, Nick, 22, Dustin, 20, and Lou, 14, and one grandchild, Lucias Porras-Young, who turned 1 in July.
Q: Describe a special memory you have of Hesperia.
A: Taking my kids when they were little to feed the ducks at Hesperia Lake, and meeting Susan Baker, who signed me on as a substitute teacher at Hesperia Unified School District. She was patient, answered all of my questions and was very nice. It left me with a good first impression of the place, which can be so important. Also, placing in the Chili Cook Off in 1984 at Hesperia Days.
Q: What do you do in your free time?
A: Listen to classic rock and watch sports.
Q: Tell us one thing that most people don't know about you.
A: I managed a Carl's Jr. and worked at the old Carl's Jr. located at Main Street and I Avenue. It's now a Jack in the Box. I also competed in the first ever Mr. Hesperia Pageant in 1983 when I was 24 years old. Gil and Margaret Zank used to love to tease me about it whenever I saw them in town.
Q: What is your passion?
A: My family, children and the kids at my school.
Q: What person, living or from history, would you most like to have dinner with and why?
A: My grandparents. I would love to sit and talk with them about old family history, such as how and why they moved out this way from Texas after the beginning of the last century.
Q: Where do you get your values from?
A: My mother. When I've been at my lowest in life, it was her words and counsel that helped the most. She helped to keep me grounded, and gave me the foundation I needed.
Q: Who is someone who had a big influence on your life?
A: My dad. He taught me that hard work is the great equalizer in life. He was a lot like the dad in "Everybody Loves Raymond," Frank Barone. Real old-school type of dad, but I never doubted his love or support.
Q: What is your favorite quotation?
A: "Attitude is Everything" by Charles Swindoll.
Q: What is your secret to living a happy, satisfying life?
A: A sense of humor. Life is too short, and we live in a cynical world. A good laugh is the best medicine.
Q: What words of advice do you have for the next generation?
A: Have a goal, and strive to attain it. Without a goal, you're just floundering.
Q: What's your favorite sports team and why?
A: Any UCLA Team. Have always been a big Bruins fan.
Q: What is something you are particularly proud of?
A: All of my children. Stephanie is a professor at Columbia University in New York; Tony is an air traffic controller at LAX; Nick is a senior in college and wants to be an elementary school teacher; Dustin is a sophomore at Long Beach State; and Lou is a freshman at Oak Hills High School. Each are special in their own way. They all have one thing in common: making fun of Dad.
Q: What's your favorite movie and why?
A: "The Godfather." What a cast, what a story, what a movie. The best ever, in my opinion.
Q: Tell us your favorite thing about Hesperia.
A: The unpredictable weather. I guess I can get bored with the same thing every day; it's good to mix things up, and up here, if you don't like the weather, wait for 15 minutes and it could change.
Q: What is the best thing about your job?
A: Working with teenagers! I love it! 100 percent of the time, if I ever have a bad day, I just spend some time with kids, and it changes everything. It is the best therapy you could ever use for a bad day. Some of my friends and family think I am crazy when I say it, but I love working with high school kids.
Q: Tell us about a special vacation.
A: My parents scraped up the money to pack me and my two sisters in the station wagon and drive to San Francisco in the late '60s. I saw things that I had never seen before in my life, and I will never forget.
Q: What makes you tick?
A: Being around young people. It really keeps you young!
Q: What are five things you can't live without?
A: My wife, family, UCLA games, music and friends.
Q: Tell us about one thing you want to accomplish in life.
A: Survive another nine years as a high school principal.
Q: What's your favorite place to eat in the High Desert?
A: Mama Carpino's, chorizo and eggs at the Taco Shop, and French Onion Soup at Nikki's Cafe, which, sadly, is closing soon.
Q: What's your favorite guilty pleasure?
A: Ice Cream.
Q: Tell us about a happy memory in your first car.
A: Going to the drive-in.
Q: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
A: Hopefully, still training, supporting and advising new educators.
Q: How can readers get a hold of you?