Alison Guckenberger

As interviewed by George Guckenberger, March 10 2014

Alison Guckenberger In Her Own Words

I can remember one time, in middle school, that I wanted to , we were having a party with a couple friends. One of my friends, his name was Chester, was African American and I had a class with him, and he was a really nice guy. So we all picked 4 or 5 kids that we wanted to come to the party, with me and my friends. And so I put him on the list, and my friends said that no, he couldn't come to the party... because he was African American. So I decided not to have the party with them because I didn't really understand the point... That I couldn't, you know, invite a friend, to the party.

So, I never really thought that people were different, based on their outside, I’ve always tried to look at people on the inside, and help people. And so in that way I have been different and so throughout my life I’ve tried to have friends of different genders and different races and what have you.

I can remember a time... It must have been seventh grade... because I was taking algebra, and there was my algebra teacher, and so because I had a learning disability... I had... I had an IEP (for dyslexia), and one of the accommodations was so that I could compete, and you know, be at the same level as my peers, was that I got extended time on tests. So I was taking a test... and the time had run out. And I wasn’t checking, and I was trying to get it finished, and, the other kids were coming in, and I was supposed to be able to go out into the hallway and finish my test, and he sort of scurried me out the door and said, “No, you’re done”. So... I had to go to the guidance counselor, and say, you know he didn't give me what I was supposed to have. And it wasn’t fair. And he was breaking the law. Because there is this law, the idea law, that says that I deserve an education just like anyone else.

So then the guidance counselor had to go to him and explain that I was supposed to get additional time, and he knew that, and why didn't he do it, and push comes to shove, he ended up saying well I’ll just give her an extra two points. And so I had to go back and forth with him because I didn't want just extra points, I just wanted to have time to do, what I needed to do. And so that was probably the first time personally, that I felt like I was discriminated against.

I was a equal opportunity specialist. And so what I did was I investigated discrimination in both housing, and employment. There were a lot of people who have had a lot of bad things happen to them and have been treated wrongly. But unfortunately it isn’t against the law to be a jerk. So a lot of the time that I spent with people was just listening to them, and their problems and empathizing with them. And saying to them, yes you were treated badly and this really really sucks that this happened to you but you have to move forward.

But then there are other occasions where people were actually discriminated against because of their race, religion, or sexual orientation. And that is something that I could help them with, as an equal opportunity specialist. We could file a complaint if it happened in the county, that we resided in, we could go to the company and get some monetary restitution for the people, for the person who was discriminated against, or we could file a complaint with the state, or with the federal government. So, I helped people, and I helped enforce the law, but a lot of what I did was just to be a good listener and kind of help people to-t-to move forward. Because a lot of times when bad things happen to people, they kind of get stuck. And they get angry and upset, and sometimes they just need a little push to move forward on their own and I was very good at that, and it was a skill that I developed.
I remember one woman who had arthritis, and she wanted to have a parking place close to her work and so she requested one, and it ended up being her bosses parking space and he got mad because he lost his parking space. And so he started treating her badly. And I helped her resolve that.