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

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Young Brazilian breaking barriers

Cabral works hard while sitting at the Hughes-Trigg Welcome Desk. Photo credit: Caleigh Daugherty

DALLAS- Competing voices infiltrate the air in the Hughes-Trigg Student Center as students swarm the main atrium. In the eye of the hurricane sits Maria Clara Cabral diligently working at the welcome desk. She’s content and tending to her own affairs behind her laptop computer.

She’s crafting her lifeline: a schedule. With her eyes fixated on the dimly lit screen, her fingertips glide over her keyboard as she outlines her study, work and volunteering schedule for the week. The keys clack with determination and soon enough the masterpiece is ready. Cabral knows exactly what she wants to do and how to get it done.

“Being organized is a big part of who I am,” Cabral said. “If something is on my list, it’s for sure going to get done.”

Then, a soft voice breaks her focus. It’s Cabral’s best friend nudging her to leave room in the schedule for some relaxation. The thing is, Cabral never stops moving from the time she wakes up from her 7-hour slumber to the time her head falls on the pillow again. She wakes up, works hard, studies, makes an impact, goes to bed and repeats.

She was told from an early age that hard work is important, but these words didn’t resonate until she was faced with a seemingly impossible task. Cabral moved from Recife, Brazil to Amarillo, TX at the age of 17. At the time, she could not speak English.

“I left my first English class crying,” Cabral said with a smirk thinking of how far she’s come. “Because I thought I was not going to be good at school and I would never be able to understand content taught in English.”

Just when she thought her American high school experience couldn’t get any worse, Cabral was left humiliated again.

Her math teacher randomly called on her to stand and answer multiplication questions. Cabral folded under the pressure and could not seem to make sense of the numbers swirling in her head. She said nothing and sank back into her chair feeling embarrassed and ashamed. Little did she know that moment would be the foundation of her future and the beginning of her life’s work.

“I remember I went home that day and I promised myself that I would never let that happen again,” Cabral said. “So, I started to work and review every single day.”

Cabral’s math teacher later informed her that to help students succeed she pushed them to their limits. Cabral now appreciates that challenging day in math class, and the skills that she developed from it. From that day forward, she never wanted to have to say the words “I can’t” again.

“I think professors and teachers have a much bigger role than just sharing their knowledge with you,” Cabral said. “Teaching the class content in my opinion is 30% of what a teacher can do. My teacher impacted my life way beyond that.”

She attributes much of her steadfast spirit to her high school math teacher. Now she works toward achieving her paramount goal and paying it forward by sharing the importance of education with others as an aspiring high school math teacher herself.

Cabral continues to push herself to succeed in as much as she can. She works three jobs, volunteers with multiple organizations to educate the next generation of ESL (English as a Second Language) students and serves on multiple leadership boards for clubs and organizations on campus. She does it all while maintaining her pride and joy: a perfect GPA.

Leonardo Silva, Cabral’s best friend at SMU, says Cabral loves keeping busy so much that she will impulsively add something to the schedule if there is room just to be able to check off another task.

Cabral and Silva cheering on Brazil in the World Cup group stages
Cabral and Silva cheering on Brazil in the World Cup group stages. Photo credit: Caleigh Daugherty

“I tell her she’s crazy all the time,” Silva said with a smile, hinting that he knows she won’t listen.

Despite him wanting to teach her to slow down and appreciate where she’s at in life, Silva admits that she is wiser than she knows and is already impacting people in ways she may not notice.

It certainly wasn’t on her list of goals but through her friendship with Silva, Cabral managed to give him the gift of appreciating his culture. Having moved away from Brazil himself, Silva says he grew away from the Brazilian culture and Maria brought him back.

“She’s definitely more connected to the Brazilian culture than I am in some ways,” Silva said. “And I think that that’s very valuable.”

Maria Clara Cabral won the award for her hard work in November.
Cabral won the award for her hard work in November. Photo credit: Caleigh Daugherty

As Cabral settles in to begin the new task of checking off assignments she is surprised to find a paper lying next to her on the desk. Her fingers gloss over the colorful border and she admires the words on the page. “Hughes-Trigg Student Center Star Student Worker of the Month.”

“This is what it’s all about,” Cabral said.

She shakes her head and refocuses on keeping the momentum going. She knows she’s right where she wants to be.

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About the Contributor
Caleigh Daugherty
Caleigh Daugherty, Sports Editor I
As one of two sports editors, Caleigh coordinates and covers SMU varsity, club and intramural sports, telling readers what to expect and providing context for the major games and decisions, such as leaving the AAC for the ACC. Caleigh also keeps readers updated on trends in sports and updates SMU varsity sports scores, rosters and standings online. She works closely with the sideline photographer and other editors to coordinate online content for audience engagement.  You can reach Caleigh at [email protected].