Ain’t no mountain high, valley low, or river wide.
You’ve all heard it: that classic, feel-good song by Diana Ross that makes us belt at the top of our lungs. Don’t worry, I’ll spare you my rendition.
Those high mountains, low valleys, and wide rivers? Those are the obstacles in life that try to keep you from getting where you want to go. They want to cripple you until you’re waving that little white flag.
I know a young girl that had a big dream, but the odds were stacked against her. Everything in life was telling her, “Nope, you won’t be able to do that. Just surrender.” Well, she had a message for that little white flag:
That girl’s name is Socorro, and she is the hardest worker I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. Her work ethic was (and is) so far out of this realm that I, her teacher, was learning from her.
I like to consider myself a hard worker, but I always had the necessary resources and people at home to push me just the right amount academically.
She did not.
This is her story of how she came from so little but amounted to so much. With her permission, it is my honor to tell it.
Socorro is the oldest daughter of seven children in a loving family. This family of nine lived tightly in a small home. Their one working car was barely reliable, but her parents made do. Even as the oldest girl, Socorro wore hand-me-downs passed to her from her father’s co-worker whose daughter had outgrown them. If she did have anything new, they were from thrift or discount stores.
Her parents did the absolute best to stretch their dollars and provide for all of the kids. In fact, they did so well at hiding their financial struggles that Socorro had no idea of them as a young child.
When Socorro was 10, however, her family faced a difficult tragedy.
One of her brothers, only six, died suddenly and unexpectedly. A community fundraiser was held to pay for his funeral, something her parents could not afford. His death was absolutely heart wrenching, and it served as her first realization that her family was poor.
From that point, she made a decision.
As backwards as it sounds, she was going to use the death of her young brother as inspiration. Inspiration to not let this tragedy and poverty set her back. It was fuel to push her forward.
With this new flame lit inside, her work ethic was born. She started down a path, one that would be full of mountains, valleys, and rivers.
School work began to take a toll on her. Not because it was too difficult. It was because she didn’t have the needed resources at home to complete them. Can you imagine taking an advanced placement history course that required weekly typed essay responses and had a hefty penalty if turned in late? Can you imagine doing ANYTHING without Internet access or a computer at home?
That’s why Socorro was the first one in the library every morning and the last one to leave, almost daily. Getting as much done there was her goal, for she felt guilty doing homework at home. It took her away from chores, helping her mother, and assisting younger siblings with their schoolwork.
I’ve heard many words associated with homework, but that’s not one of them.
She was at school earlier and longer than some of us teachers, because that’s what it took under her circumstances. I remember one instance so vividly that will leave a lasting impression on me.
For some reason, there was one day that Socorro was unable to save her essay work done on a computer in the library. In fear of receiving a late penalty, she arrived to school very early the next morning. I can’t remember what went wrong that prevented her from using a library computer, but she was stuck and frantic.
When so many others would have given up, she reevaluated and came up with a different solution.
She borrowed an old cell phone, one without the capabilities they have today, and proceeded to type her essay using those tiny keys hoping there’d be someway to print it from there. Now, y’all remember cell phones when they weren’t touch screen, right? I’ll let this resonate for a minute.
She did that, because that’s what it took.
Somehow, her determination won in that situation, and she turned in a typed essay on time. I would get so disappointed in students who complained about doing classwork. Students, who had the luxury of Internet and a computer in the comfort of their own home, complained. They didn’t have to live at the library. If they only knew…
Socorro’s struggle with affording project materials, Internet access, and hoping the family car could get her to the library continued through high school. Somehow, she not only graduated very near the top ten percent of her class, she was inducted into the National Honor Society.
Her next feat was to convince her parents that pursuing education and college after high school, something that seemed so out of reach and unaffordable, was what she dreamed. She would not settle for finding a minimum wage job after high school.
She had bigger plans.
Socorro enrolled in a small college near her hometown. She worked while attending school as a Pre-K aide at an elementary school in the district where she grew up. It was there she realized she wanted to become a teacher.
That job was only contracted for one year, so she had to worry about how she would make up the difference her financial aid did not cover to pay for college. She eventually found a SPED inclusion job working with students in grades 1-5. From there, she transferred to Texas State in San Marcos.
Socorro was the first in her family to go to college.
When she made it to San Marcos, she didn’t know anyone, but she was there and savored it. At one point, she was working three jobs AND attending classes just to pay for college. Can you believe that?
In 2020, she will graduate with an EC-6 Bilingual Generalist certification with a minor in Spanish. It may have taken her longer than 4 years to graduate college because of the work schedule she had to juggle with her classes, but she will graduate.
She will be the first collegiate graduate in her family. It tickles me to death that she will become a teacher, too. She will take her work ethic into the classroom as an educator and pour it into her students.
Never let life or the lack of money tell you no. Socorro didn’t. As she showed us, all you have to have is a will. If your will is strong enough, it will scale any mountain, cross any valley, and skid through any river.
Odds and obstacles? She owned them. Be a Socorro.