All eyes on Rochelle Barker
Rochelle Barke. Photo by Blaise Douros/LLNL.
Rochelle Barker grew up in Modesto, California, where she and her brother were raised by their grandmother. Two of the most important values that Barker learned from her grandmother were to work hard and to take care of those around you.
“Grandma was a career waitress in a little truck shop on Interstate 5,” she said. “When I was 13, she paid me $20 a night to clear tables and help around the restaurant. As time went on, she showed me how to write tickets, and which tables were which. She saved the cash register for last, but eventually I knew how to do that, too.”
Barker became a waitress herself, and at one point she was working between 70-90 hours each week to support her aging grandmother and other family members. All that changed when one day someone sat down at her barstool while she was working and suggested she apply to do cleanroom custodial work at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL).
“To this day, I still use many of the skills I learned waitressing and cleaning in my day-to-day work at the Laboratory,” she said. “My grandma taught me everything I know and gave me a skill set that I could build a career out of.”
Working at LLNL has offered Barker so many opportunities that she says it’s her personal mission as a technical coordinator for the Engineering Directorate to improve the working experiences of her colleagues.
“Statistically speaking, as a mixed race, single mother who grew up in foster care and who has no college degree, I shouldn’t be where I am today,” Barker said. “But instead, I have a great employer who offers me work-life balance and that has enabled me to become a homeowner. In fact, I’m the first person to own a home in my family in generations.”
Improved work-life balance is one of the reasons Barker stays with the Lab. She loves being able to participate in more of her son’s extracurricular activities. Together, they’re passionate about finding ways to improve their community — like advocating in local government for better streetlights and sidewalks to be installed, volunteering their time to restoring San Francisco Bay Area wetland ecosystems and developing earth science educational programs through their local mineral society.
“I’m so grateful that I get to be around for all of my son’s life moments now,” she said. “There have been times where I would come home just for an hour or two because I was working so many hours, but now I get to experience life with him while uplifting our community.”
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ContactElenita Makani O’Malley