The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

SMU Juniors Jaisan Avery and Kayla Spears paint together during Curlchella hosted by SMU Fro, Dallas Texas, Wednesday April 17, 2024 (©2024/Mikaila Neverson/SMU).
SMU Fro's Curlchella recap
Mikaila Neverson, News Editor • April 23, 2024
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Expanding opportunity through education

Expanding opportunity through education

By Marie Medrano

This time of year marks Hispanic Heritage Month – an occasion I barely noticed growing up in the Rio Grande Valley. In my community, nearly all of my friends and neighbors were Hispanic. Every month and almost every day included some sort of nod to Hispanic culture, whether in eating tamales for dinner or chatting with my abuelos after school.

That all changed when I got to SMU and found myself suddenly in the minority. This challenge soon emerged as a great opportunity for clarifying my own identity. Living and studying alongside people from backgrounds much different than mine, I began to recognize how my culture had shaped my life.

This insight affected my involvement on campus – internships, jobs, and extracurricular activities. In my role as a University Ambassador, I saw in each prospective student glimpses of myself – another candidate for the kind of transformational educational experience I had been fortunate enough to have at SMU.

As graduation approached, I wondered if I should redirect my focus. When I heard about Teach For America, I saw it as a bridge that used my SMU education to motivate and “sell” education to students who were at risk for failure. I knew that TFA teachers worked in the Rio Grande Valley. At first, I balked at the thought of returning home. I felt that success meant seeking ever expanding opportunities and experiences, and that certainly did not include returning home. This was the attitude I had when I set off for Dallas four years earlier.

However, the more I learned about the gaps in opportunity between wealthier and low-income kids, and reflected on my own path to SMU – including adults who expected less of me because of my skin color and friends who were much smarter than me but had fallen through the holes in the system – the more convinced I was that I had to head home.

Now that I’m back and in my first year of teaching at Wilson Elementary in Harlingen, I am happier than I have been in a long time. The work is hard, but the potential I see in my students makes the challenges well worth the fight. I regularly work with students who lack some of the foundations for success, and encourage them to work hard and make it to college. I get to cheer on students by reminding them of their potential and provide them with some of the resources they need to succeed.

My own educational journey became possible because of the sacrifices my abuelos made. They had a limited education, but they did whatever it took to make sure their kids went to college. By the time I was born, education had a reputation in my family as the golden ticket to a better life.

That’s what I want every kid in my classroom to know. Whether it’s the numbers on their zip code or their parents’ paycheck, they deserve access to the same resources and opportunities as kids in more affluent communities. All it takes is one generation to set the precedent for leveraging the power of education to live out one’s dreams. As students and alumni of SMU, we’ve had incredible opportunities to shape our own futures. Now it’s up to us to help the kids of today create theirs.

Marie Medrano is a 2014 alum of SMU. She majored in Communication and Advertising and minored in Business. She is a Teach For America-Rio Grande Valley corps member teaching fifth grade math at Wilson Elementary School in Harlingen, Texas.

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