Chan Meas knows what it is like to have challenges in your life at a young age.
His parents immigrated to America and his family spent time on government assistance before his father was able to start his own cabinetry business.
Through the good and bad times, Meas’ parents taught their children discipline, the value of hard work, respect and the importance of education. As the new principal of San Luis High School, Meas is hoping to pass those lessons on to his students.
“I grew up poor, on welfare. I remember what it was like to not have the best clothes, shopping at the Goodwill, my mom going in to buy groceries with food stamps. I was able to experience, growing up, what it was like to have nothing to being middle class,” he said. “My job is to inspire all these students to dream and achieve, because if it could happen to me, a first generation Asian-American student, anything is possible.”
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On Monday, Meas took over as head of the continuation school from Principal Duke Marshall, who had the job about a couple months before having to relocate to Texas where his wife accepted a job.
Meas is returning to the district. He was a counselor at Los Banos High School from 2004 to 2006. He spent the past seven years as an assistant principal at Mitchell Senior Elementary School in Atwater. While he was in Los Banos, one of his duties was to assist in transferring students from Los Banos High to the San Luis campus. Meas worked frequently with longtime San Luis Principal John Lupini, who retired earlier this year. Even back then, Meas said, he knew he wanted to lead San Luis, and he wasn’t shy about it.
“This is my dream job. It’s a God thing; I was meant to be here,” he said. “When I was at Los Banos High years ago, I said, ‘John, I could see myself applying for your job when you retire one day.’ Seven, eight years later, here I am.”
Meas said he hopes to build on the foundation Lupini, who spent two-plus decades leading the campus, built at San Luis. Meas said Marshall has also been helpful in making sure the transition from one principal to another has gone smoothly.
Meas has spent his first week on the job getting to know his staff and students. He said cultivating relationships is key the students being able to succeed.
“The students we serve at San Luis High School, they’re mainly here because they’re credit deficient,” Meas said. “These are really good kids that have just lost their way temporarily. It’s my job to steer them in the right direction.”
Meas wants to be a role model to his students and he demands the same of his staff.
“A lot of things we see at school with student behavior is learned behavior. What we do here at San Luis is we model good behavior,” he said.
Meas said his goal is to get the students in a position where they can either return to their original high school or graduate from San Luis High by taking advantage of the school’s format.
“From what I’m learning, many of the students are happy here and want to stay here,” he said. “Many of the students are thriving, tasting success for the first time in a smaller atmosphere.”
Meas, 37, is a native of Ceres. He said the demographics of the town are very similar to Los Banos. He considers himself a foodie who likes dining at different restaurants. Meas also likes snowboarding and visiting beaches around the world. The beaches in Australia and Belize are next on his list.
Meas said he plans to be the principal of San Luis for a long time. He said he is inspired by his students.
“The kids keep me going. Whenever you have a bad day and you get to know your students, they really have some rough lives,” Meas said. “Just (the students) being here is an accomplishment.”