When Sara Gonzalez got accepted into UT seven years ago, she never imagined she’d actually get to go. Having moved with her family from Mexico to the United States in 2003, she wasn’t familiar with the school system, missed opportunities for scholarship programs, and didn’t know how to apply for financial aid—but Sara’s mom, Beatriz, was determined not to let her daughter’s goals fall to the wayside. Instead, she sold their house in Mexico to fund her first semester.
“I told [Sara] I would do everything in my power for her to study there,” Beatriz says. “It was her dream!”
Sara’s family has always placed a high value on education. Her grandfather, father, and mother are all teachers.. Growing up in Monterrey, Nuevo León, Mexico until the age of 12, Sarah saw education as a means to a better life. She remembers—thanks to her family full of educators—knowing the intrinsic, less tangible value of education.
“The word [education] is used not only for academic education but also for your morals and how you’re raised,” Sara explains. “I think just by calling it that helps you understand how education shapes you as as person all together. It’s not such a separate thing of what you do in school and who you are as a person.”
For Sara, class rings have always been synonymous with education. When her grandfather passed away, she asked her mom for his medical school ring. “I always saw school rings as a family tradition and a symbol of accomplishment,” she says.
Beatriz agrees. “We love rings,” she says. “I think my father instilled a lot in us about studying for a career and about continuing to study for as long we are alive.”
Despite Sara’s curiosity and passion for learning, though, her seven-year path to her bachelor’s degree hasn’t been without obstacles. “I am dyslexic,” Sara says, “but I didn’t quite understand what that meant.” She only knew that reading was sometimes challenging, and frustrating to get done, especially in the College of Natural Sciences, where Sara started at UT.
“It was a long journey because I knew I wanted to do a lot of things,” Sara explains. “I did Cosmetology School and doubled up on classes during summer, so I could do cosmetology and get a college degree.” Plus, she was working two jobs.
While still in the College of Natural Sciences, Sara got accepted into a program to teach ESL in Korea and began to question her career goals, spending an entire semester with career counseling at UT and eventually transferring to the College of Education.
Now, she’s wrapping up her degree in Bilingual Education with honors this May and has plans to be a bilingual teacher—just like Beatriz.
Of course, the journey wouldn’t feel complete without what has become a family tradition: a class ring.
“This girl didn’t even want to get her high school ring so I wouldn’t have to spend money,” says Beatriz. “And she was doubting about getting this one. I said are you kidding me? This is a once in a lifetime thing, you have to do that. But she’s always taking care of me.”
“It has been a lot of sacrifice,” Sara explains. “It’s a tangible symbol. It symbolizes the completion of a journey.”
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