My story is the American dream. And it starts with my parents.
I was born into a migrant farming family. Although born in the United States, my dad had to work from a very young age, so he didn’t have the opportunity to go to school. He traveled to and from Texas, Michigan, and Florida, following the picking seasons. After meeting my mom, who also was born in the United States, my father found a job picking tomatoes and bussing tables at a maltshop in San Antonio. My three sisters and I were born and raised in San Antonio. Our lives were changed when someone helped my father purchase a vehicle, allowing him to travel for different work opportunities. This simple action changed the trajectory of our family. He went on to become a janitor and later took the leap to start his own cleaning business.
Hard work and humility: lessons for life
Our whole family worked in the janitorial business, cleaning business offices – banks, auto parts stores, and others. I’ll never forget those late nights cleaning out ashtrays and trash cans. We were proud as a family to have built something together that was benefiting us all.
My parents were determined that their daughters would get a good education so we could have more career and life opportunities than they did. Because of the relationships my father had made with some of those janitorial clients, he was able to help my sisters get jobs in those businesses, and they worked and excelled at those businesses until they retired.
I saw how hard my parents and sisters worked, and I saw the pride they took in their work. I understood what a job well done really meant. That’s something that will never leave me.
Education and teachers changed my future
I struggled early on in school, and for a period in time, I ran with the wrong crowd. Many of those people went nowhere in life, and I probably would have joined them if it hadn’t been for my family, and some incredible teachers who provided me the tools and confidence I needed to change course.
While in high school, I took a dual-credit course through the University of Texas – San Antonio Honors Program. My mom was so proud that I was taking a college class. The class was paid for through the district, but I soon learned books were extra, and my family didn’t have the money for that. I was going to back out of the class, but a teacher encouraged me and helped me connect with an HEB manager who provided some funds, and a local foundation covered the rest.
My English professor at UTSA invited me to lunch to talk about my college plans. At that time, I had no such plans. My professor changed that. She gave me the book “The House on Mango Street,” that was like reading the story of my life. It spoke to my Latina heritage, her experience of cleaning houses, of using education to find her voice, and her future were my experiences too. That gesture from my professor, and her continued coaching, helped me find my future too. This teacher changed my life and we are still in touch.
At the end of high school, I received a scholarship and applied to UTSA, Baylor, and Notre Dame. The latter was too far and too cold, the former was too close, so I chose Baylor, where I majored in biology and minored in anthropology. Later, I received my Master’s of Education in adult learning and distance education from the University of Phoenix, then my Doctorate in Education with a focus in instructional technology from the University of Texas at Austin.
From career to life calling
Early in my career, I worked at Futurekids, School Technology Solutions. I loved being in schools and the classroom, but was not satisfied with how technology was taught isolated from subject-content areas. I wanted to learn how to integrate technology into content areas and use technology as a bridge for some students - students desiring a real-life connection of media and technology to their content areas. Then I worked at St. Edward's University and Austin Community College teaching computer science, instructional design, and teacher education courses. While teaching these courses, I realized that like my former professor, I had a passion for helping others by opening the door to education opportunities. I had found a new purpose.
At St. Edwards, I heard how high school students taking dual-credit courses were dropping them because they couldn’t afford the books. It was like hearing my story all over again – and I couldn’t just sit still. I knew my story of success could, and should, be their story too. I contacted the then-superintendent of Leander ISD and told him of my concerns, and he invited me in for a conversation. He convinced me to join the Leander Educational Excellence Foundation as a volunteer board member. Three and a half years later, I became the foundation’s executive director.
Through LEEF, and in partnership with so many amazing volunteers and donors, I raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to help support teachers, students, principals, and schools across the district. I’ve also volunteered my time as a PTA board member and on campus committees for my sons’ schools, and for their robotics programs.
I am currently Executive Director of a civic engagement organization that empowers the voice, the issues, and the vote of young Latinos across the state of Texas. We achieve this by harnessing the beauty and power of our culture to help build the next generation of leaders.
I am here because my family and my teachers believed in me, even when I didn’t know I could believe in myself. I am involved in our schools and community because my education provided me with a gateway to a better future. I am running for LISD trustee because I believe I have more to give back.
Please join me by donating to my campaign, or contact me to volunteer or put a sign in your yard.