“But the vast majority is in the center of the bell, where
they’re good kids and they can do well with just some direction
and some input,” he explained. “So I tried to put my efforts
into that. I still worked with the other kids, but most of my
effort was on those kids. I think I developed the right plan
because you’ve got one guy and 2,300 Latino students.”
Most of his paycheck comes from a Perkins grant, which is
focused on career education. So Luna puts a lot of effort into
showing kids potential careers, helping each one find that “aha
moment” when a student figures out their professional future,
then develops the plan to get there.
“I’ve developed some really great experiences for kids that
could expose them (to careers),” said Luna, explaining kids
always seem to come back to the same few paths: nurse, doctor,
teacher, cosmetologist, lawyer, fireman, police officer. “We
know they’re not all going to be that.”
Luna became well-known for organizing field trips, taking
vanloads and busloads of Latino kids to see TPS career tech prep
programs, colleges, and places of work like the GM Design
“The kids would tool around and see all the different jobs that
it takes to design an automobile,” he said. “The artists and
engineers would take them on a tour and always tell them ‘You’ve
got to do good in school.’ Give them a dream and then tell them
what to do to get there.”
Luna changed dozens of lives along the way. Some of his favorite
success stories include students who reached out to him later in
their lives to tell him what an influence he had on them.
One of those stories involves Battalion Chief Daniel Brown-Martínez,
who is nearing his 20th anniversary with the Toledo
Fire Dept., who now leads the fire cadet recruitment team.
“I kind of hassled him until he went to a summer program in
Findlay and he talked his brother and sister into going, too,”
recalled Luna. “He told me that completely opened their eyes.
That’s the thing I’m proudest about: opening the eyes of kids to
But he also emphasizes organizational skills, time management,
setting priorities, and discipline with each Latino student he
counsels. He meets with them one-on-one, going over their grades
and their plan to make sure they’re “being real.” His overall
goal was to lift the children of working class parents into the
“I tell kids that they’re going to change your brothers and
sisters lives by being successful,” he said. “Another one of my
catchphrases with kids is there’s nothing more addicting than
Luna certainly could relate to where the kids were at that point
in their lives. A self-described “late bloomer,” he started his
own career working at the Defiance GM Foundry in the 1970’s.
“I had a great job, made lots of money. But I wasn’t happy,
wasn’t fulfilled,” he admitted. So he headed to Bowling Green
State University, determined to become a history teacher.
But there were no jobs available once he graduated. So he took
the job as Hispanic outreach coordinator.
“I went into it with a real attitude, a Chicano attitude,
radical,” he recalled. “That’s what kept me going. I wasn’t
going to give up. The kids are coming from some really dark
places. You have to be able to light a match, show them the way,
and make it last.”
Luna grew up in a small West Texas town, one of six children
raised by a single mother, who, in his words, “was always such a
stickler about education” and expected every one of her kids to
go to college despite their attendance at a segregated school.
His family later relocated to Northwest Ohio and he graduated
from Patrick Henry High School. He graduated from BGSU in
1991 with an education degree and a master’s in school
counseling in 2002 from Siena Heights University in
Luna has won several awards over the years for his dedicated
professional service at TPS and groundbreaking community work,
including as a founding member of the annual Latino Youth
Summit held at the University of Toledo, where 600
middle school and high school students explore college and
possible careers. He earned a Diamante Award for education in
presented him with the
César Chávez Humanitarian Award
in 2012. Luna received a
Distinguished Hispanic Ohioan (DHO) award
from the Ohio Commission on Hispanic/Latino Affairs in 2019.
Luna’s wife of 20 years Maria also works for TPS, with 36 years
of service time as a teacher’s aide and her current role running
a distance learning lab at Bowsher High School. She has not
decided yet whether to retire.
“Above it all, she’s my best friend. My only regret is I didn’t
spend an entire lifetime with her,” said Luna. “She’s the best.”
The couple owns a small publishing firm Dove in Flight,
which they’ve used to publish several books they’ve written. The
latest is a bilingual children’s book
If a Little Girl Was President.
Unfortunately, the book came out just as the coronavirus
pandemic hit, stalling promotional efforts. Maria focuses on
poetry and short stories. Luna is also thinking about starting a
consulting business in retirement.
“I’ll never regret becoming a teacher. I don’t look back, even
though I would have made more money as an auto worker,” said
Luna. “Never. It’s been too wild of an experience. I’ve been a
musician, a factory worker, a farm laborer, and now a teacher. I
think I’ve lived a life that most men would envy.”