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Ripon native Hester meets President Obama
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Photo contributed Ripon native and head master of the ASL school in London Coreen (Ruiz) Hester shakes hands with the U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama.
Staff reporter for the
Manteca (Calif.) Bulletin
One of President Obama’s first stops on his inaugural trip to Europe included a face-to-face meeting with Ripon native Coreen (Ruiz) Hester.
The President and Mrs. Obama visited the American School (ASL) in London where they met Hester who serves as head master.
It was part of Obama’s eight-day tour where he also met with the London U.S. Embassy staff and their families in the school’s gymnasium for about an hour.  Coreen and her staff were able to chat with the President and the First Lady for a few minutes before he went on stage.
“It was pretty amazing,” Coreen said.  “We invited him back to play basketball, if he needs a gym and, of course, we hope they will come again now that they know where we are and meet with us.”
She said the school’s gymnasium was decked out in red, white and blue bunting for the visit.  The President spoke for about 10 minutes thanking the embassy staff and their families for their service.
“It was a wonderful moment, and how lucky I was to be there.  Still I think of my Dad, reading the local newspaper every night and discussing local and national politics at dinner.  Our political consciousness came from him,” she said.  “And, I know he would have loved that I got to shake hands with the President.”
It was a perfect time to host the President and the First Lady as all of the school’s sports teams were arriving back on campus.  The music tour was coming back in from Istanbul, the senior citizens’ show of the middle school musical “Grease” was on stage.  And, their very own robot was on display in the library.
“We gave them presents – ASL caps and T-shirts for the girls too – and President Obama signed our official visitors’ book and a special card that we will frame with a picture of his visit,” she said.
He autographed the book with “Go Eagles!” slightly smearing his signature.  “Oh, there’s an official presidential smudge,” he said, chuckling.
The American School in London was founded in 1951 offering a singular opportunity to students – an American curriculum delivered by a “first rate faculty” in what is described as one of the great cultural centers of the world.
The Ripon head master said their curriculum offers the challenge of high expectations, the excitement of engaging learning experiences and the support of a caring community.  “We bring talented and dedicated faculty members to ASL, actively seeking to build a community of learners for everyone,” she said.
Coreen added that her students learn to apply their newfound knowledge both inside and outside of the classroom, and they come to appreciate the importance of leadership and the value of service to a wider world.   Best of all, they are happy to be here and the smiles are wide, she said.
Their experiences in education take them to studying architecture at a nearby Tudor castle to competing at the English-Speaking Union to exploring nature at the school’s outdoor education garden, she said.        
The former Ripon High grad said she would love the opportunity to speak to the students in Ripon some day.  “The world is wide……,” she said.
Coreen and her sister Nadine are both educators – the later also the author of two books – being raised on the family’s River Road almond ranch.  
Coreen said they couldn’t help but be “goal driven” because of their parents, the late Nish and Josie Ruiz.  “They were the best,” she said.
She added that she had great teachers at both Ripon Elementary and Ripon High School.  Coreen credited Mrs. Madsen and Miss Turnquist to Mr. Fitzgerald and Mr. Cotrell at the elementary level.  
Inspiring teachers in high school were Mr. Laird, Mr. Lale, Mr. Mulligan and Mr. Hall with the Jeopardy style competition about history and current events, she added.
“I loved Mr. O’Leary’s statistics class.  It was all a good foundation for the love of teaching and the importance of helping young people,” she said.
One U.S. Embassy family whose sons attend ASL shared an account of their meeting with the President.  
Their first grade son, who is studying oceans, asked the President if he knew the name of the state fish of Hawaii.
A fifth grader, Josh, who is learning about Africa and researching diamond mining, asked the President for his thoughts on the question.  Obama smiled and remarked, “Nobody briefed me on this one.”

In the case of the fish, as both the youngster and Obama can tell you, it’s the Humuhumunukunukuapua’s – also known as the rectangular triggerfish.