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Hispanic Heritage Month

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A photo of Dr. Jennifer Davis

Name: Dr. Jennifer Davis              
TAMUT Title: Director of International Studies


I was a first generation Hispanic college student.  My parents emphasized the role that education could play in my life.  They said opportunities would come my way if I focused on my education.  I trusted them and devoted myself to succeeding at my studies.  As an adult, I now realize that I had societal barriers I had to push past in order to become successful.  I came from a lower to middle class socioeconomic background, I was a first generation college student, and I am Hispanic.  Many things could have gone astray without my parent’s unyielding support to push me to excel academically.  Today I’ve transformed into a confident and proud advocate for education in my community.  It’s exciting to see the transformative power of education impacting students across campus.  Education allows us to feel confident pursuing our goals and enables us to lift up others on our journeys.

A photo of Robert Hernandez.

Name: Robert Hernandez
TAMUT Title: Manager, Veteran Services

Hispanic culture is rich in values and traditions.  Hispanics are proud people with family being one of the most important aspects in life.  For me personally, being of Mexican descent, this holds very true in who I am.  My grandparents came over from Mexico as children with their parents to work on building the American railroad system.  Through their examples and teachings, my parents learned the importance of hard work and family.  They instilled these values in me and my siblings and I based my parenting of my two daughters on the same values. These two values go hand in hand.  Too often, we see individuals focus strictly on their personal success while neglecting their families.  Your success is not an individual effort; it takes a strong support network to achieve and for Hispanics, that is our family.  So my two-cent words of wisdom, to be successful, roll up those sleeves and work hard but ensure you are recognizing the support of your family that are there for you behind the scene.  That support must be a two-way street so ensure you do what you can to support them as well.  Without my family’s support, I would not have been able to have a successful 30-year career in the U.S. Air Force nor be as successful in my current position in supporting our military community students here at Texas A&M University-Texarkana.

A photo of Melba Foster

Name: Melba Foster
TAMUT Title: Clinical Instructor of Education

In order to tell my story, I would have to begin two generations back. I grew up in the southernmost tip of Texas in an area called the Rio Grande Valley. This is a predominately Hispanic and Catholic region of the state. I had an unusual upbringing, as compared to my friends and extended family, because my immediate family was protestant and both my parents were highly educated. My maternal great-grandfather allowed my grandmother to go off to college. This was unheard of in the Hispanic community in the ‘20s. My maternal grandmother raised her children with the constant reminder that they would all attend college.

My mother and father raised their children with the statement, “You can do whatever you want to do in life AFTER you finish college.” My sister and I were both raised with the understanding that we would not have to rely on anyone else when we obtained our degrees. We would be strong, independent, and educated women.

Texas A&M Texarkana has been an important part of my career growth. I obtained my Master’s in Education, my principal certification and currently my doctorate. I believe it is my duty, as a Hispanic female in a leadership position, to empower anyone but specifically Hispanic women and to encourage them to look beyond “the now”. I want to uplift them and provide motivation for them to push onward and upward. I serve as a model and at times a mentor for all women who strive to achieve their goals; whatever they may be.

A photo of Kim Ganado

Name: Kim Ganado
TAMUT Title: Coordinator of Houston Recruitment

As a first generation college student I can attest to the struggles many of our young Hispanics students endure when pursuing a college education, especially students who are undocumented. Many of these students do not have people in their lives to provide them with knowledge on how to prepare, maintain and succeed within the world of higher ed.  It is important that us within the higher education network provide information and encouragement to the younger Hispanic generations as well as Hispanic families regarding the value of higher education. I absolutely love my job, every year I have the privilege of helping Hispanic families and more importantly students have an opportunity to pursue a college degree at our wonderful institution. There is nothing more rewarding than knowing you are helping your culture move forward through education. In recent years the number of Hispanic students pursuing and completing higher education has exploded. It brings me great joy to know that young Hispanics across the nation are becoming more focused on their higher education, and seeking other career paths than those traditionally prescribed to our culture. It is important that we continue to provide opportunities and support; and empower young Hispanics as they pursue their dreams.

A photo of Jennifer Perez.

Name: Jennifer Perez
TAMUT Title: Academic Advisor

I am thankful for the celebration of Hispanic Heritage month because it is an opportunity for me to showcase a glimpse of Hispanic flavor to my kids. Growing up in a large Hispanic family has shaped who I am today and my kids are missing out on the fun that comes alongside this part of our existence. This month is a great chance for us to connect and embrace our roots!

A photo of Kristina Jones.

Name: Kristina Jones
TAMUT Title: Coordinator of Student Engagement, Transfer Student Programs

I think representation is so important, and I hope that seeing a Hispanic professional (and a woman), would encourage others to push toward their dreams. 

Education was always a high priority emphasized to me from a young age, and I now try my best to pass that same level of importance along to my own children and my students.  I witnessed, first- hand, how an education can change lives of individuals/families.  My father was a non-traditional student, in a time when minorities were not very prevalent in pursuing higher education.  He worked full time while going to school and was able to earn his master’s degree and provide a lifestyle that was much different from his upbringing.  I can relate to the struggles of the students I advise and reflect on my time as a child watching my father pursue an education for the benefit of our family, and also on my own personal educational journey.  Overall, I want to let them all know that yes, education is worth it, and yes, your life and the lives of those around you will be positively impacted. 

I am also very transparent with my students when discussing my personal and unconventional journey to my current position, and am not afraid to share the struggles and setbacks I had along the way.  I hold all of my students to a higher standard while providing them with encouragement.

It is such an honor to be a part of my students’ personal journeys.

A photo of Chrissy Gonzales

Name: Chrissy Gonzalez
TAMUT Title: Associate Director of Admissions

It must feel empowering to speak two languages in a world that is so diverse.  I was raised in a Hispanic household where Spanish was no longer spoken, we were in America, we will speak only English.  Growing up I only heard the beautiful Spanish words of my grandparents and the broken Spanish of my parents, aunts, and uncles.  My siblings and cousins and I are now at a disadvantage because our grandparents wanted so much for us to blend into the American society.  Although I understand exactly the reason my grandparents wanted us so badly to be a part of the American culture, oh how I wish I were bilingual like the students I see passing through the hallways at A&M-Texarkana.  It is important to me that this population of students become knowledgeable of the admissions process so they can start college in the same position as their counterparts.  I am inspired by the future of our Hispanic students not only at TAMUT but across the nation.

A photo of Venus Lillis

Name: Venus Lillis
TAMUT Title: Director of Advising

Hispanic Heritage month is a wonderful way to celebrate such a diverse and vibrant culture.  I grew up in a large Mexican family from California and was blessed with a very involved and extended support system.  Who I am today is very much a result of their influence and support. They taught me to value family and the importance of succeeding together.  We depend on each other and find security in that support when life is great or challenging.  They taught me that dance, music, and good food can revive your spirit.  Family gatherings were always so lively and created such positive energy.  They also ingrained in me the importance of hard work and always giving your best effort.  We want to make our family proud. For future Hispanic students wanting to succeed in higher education, I believe these gifts from our culture are strengths that can help you achieve your goals: stick together and know your support system, create positive energy to keep you motivated, and always give your best effort.

A photo of Jennifer Willis

Name: Jennifer Willis
TAMUT Title: Institutional Effectiveness Officer

My Hispanic Heritage is provides great joy and pride. In my undergraduate career I received the first piece of empowerment through education by earning a multicultural scholarship. This important key opened a vital door to education that I have yet to close. In my 22 year (and counting) educational career, I have taken classes or participated in seminars/training on diversity, equity, and inclusion to continue to educate myself, learn, and grow as a multicultural person. In addition, I have participated in multicultural organizations on my college campus. All of these opportunities, provided dialogue with other Hispanic students. My biological father did not want me to learn Spanish because he was ashamed of his Heritage. I am not. I did not grow up in a Hispanic household and I am not close with my Hispanic relatives. Most people I encounter, do not know I am Hispanic. However, these facts do not erase the deep-rooted love I have for my heritage or family. With each degree I have earned, it is not lost on me that I am the first on that side of my family to do so. I seek more and more education with the knowledge of the sacrifices of my Hispanic relatives. Their lives and stories are not forgotten. I seek to make them proud. Altogether, it is empowering me to do more with my voice and education.

A photo of Luz Mary and her mother.

Name: Dr. Luz Mary Rincon
TAMUT Title: Professor of Spanish and Bilingual Education

From the time we make the long, unpredictable trek into America, we start re-shaping ourselves to fit the expectations of a new lifestyle. We enjoy turkey enchiladas on Acción de Gracias, celebrate Christmas on the 24th and Posadas for 9 days before, share Christmas presents on Día de los Reyes. But we also embrace the aspect that defines us—our culture. We create tight-knit communities: sharing our Hispanic heritage, celebrating our music—mariachi, reggaeton, bachata, our religion—Virgen de Guadalupe, Día de los Muertos, Holy Week parades, enjoying our pastimes and sports—lotería, soccer, rodeo, and enjoying the combination of flavors—cilantro, lime, avocado, pico de gallo. We influence the general American culture and way of life, but also incorporate their values and traditions. So whether it be Mexican or Colombia, Puerto Rican or Chilean, we are unified by keeping the memoir most defining of us—pride in our “Hispanidad.”

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