Thursday, February 7, 2013

Watch me do this!

By Rebecca Bell
Dean of Community Relations & Special Events

Isabel Carrillo’s motto is “Watch me do this!” and people have been watching her do amazing things for the past 23 years. The Midland, Texas, native has been defying the odds and proving herself from the time she was at Bonham Elementary School until the present as she begins a master’s degree in communications at The University of Texas at Tyler.

Carrillo said, “My parents are Mexican immigrants, and I didn’t speak any English until I started the third grade. I was in bilingual classes during kindergarten, first and second grades. When I started the third grade, all the bilingual classes were full. I was put in an all-English-speaking class, and that made me learn English very quickly! It was either sink or swim.”

Carrillo didn’t “sink” at all. In fact, she graduated from Midland’s Robert E. Lee High School in 2007 with a 3.67 GPA and then entered Angelo State University where she completed a baccalaureate degree in only three years! It wasn’t easy for Carrillo during her school years. Carrillo is the youngest of three siblings, and her family lived in a rural community in southeast Midland. Carrillo had to be at the bus stop at 7:00 a.m. every school day, and didn’t get home until 4:30 p.m. Her father, who just has a sixth-grade education from Mexico, worked as a mechanic to support the family. When Isabel was in high school, her father was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. That’s when Isabel’s mother (who was a stay-at-home mom) had to start working for Girling Health Care.

Carrillo’s siblings include a brother who is 13 years older than she, and a sister who is 9 years older. Her brother graduated from high school; however, her sister dropped out just a few months before graduation. Carrillo explained that being a part of a stereotypical Mexican family, her parents didn’t expect much of the girls.

“I think my parents pretty much thought that I would follow in my sister’s footsteps and not complete high school,” noted Carrillo. “I remember when I wanted to join orchestra in elementary school, my parents said, ‘why do you want to do that—you’ll just quit.’ That’s when I first said, ‘Watch me do this!’”

“I couldn’t have done it without Midland College’s Upward Bound program,” continued Carrillo. “By the time I graduated from high school, I already had a year’s worth of college credit because the Upward Bound counselors encouraged me to enroll in dual credit courses while I was in high school, and then I took college courses as part of the ‘Bridge Program’ during the summer between my junior and senior years in high school. The Upward Bound tutoring helped me maintain good grades, and the activities that Upward Bound sponsored provided wonderful opportunities for cultural enrichment.”

Carrillo recalled that family vacations involved traveling to Mexico to visit with family, and she always wanted to go somewhere in the United States; however, her father was very adamant that his children know about their Mexican heritage.

Carrillo said, “When I was in high school, I was able to go to Hawaii and Washington, D.C., during the same summer! The Lee High School band and orchestras played at Pearl Harbor. Then the Midland College Upward Bound program went to Washington that year, and it was fabulous. I was able to experience U.S. history that summer.”

Those summer trips made Carrillo even more determined to travel. So far, she has visited fifteen states and four other countries including Ireland. During the summer after high school graduation, she studied abroad in Monterrey, Mexico. Carrillo said that eventually she plans to visit all 50 states and as many countries as she can.

Today, Carrillo is enjoying life as a graduate student at The University of Texas at Tyler. She proudly boasts having completed her undergraduate degree without any debt. She was able to obtain some private scholarships. Her brother, who is a truck driver, also helped with finances. In addition, while at Angelo State, Carrillo worked as a member of the production team at a local television station in San Angelo and as a reporter and editor at the college’s television station.

After graduating with her bachelor’s degree in May of 2010, Carrillo stayed in San Angelo and worked for Angelo State University as a Hispanic Serving Institution outreach coordinator. It was while she was employed for Angelo State that she met her boyfriend Modesto Rosales at a Texas Tech University alumni dinner in Midland at the Petroleum Club. (Angelo State is part of the Texas Tech University system.) Rosales is now working as an attorney in Tyler, and Carrillo works as a substitute teacher to help finance her graduate studies.

Carrillo explained that she isn’t quite sure what the future will hold; however, whatever she does, she will be exclaiming, “Watch me do this!” She will definitely get the job accomplished with that same determination and poise that has garnered success during her first 23 years.

"From Dublin, Ireland, one of the best places I have been," Carrillo writes. "I dream of living there, one day. East Texas weather is certainly helping me get accustomed to the similar climate in Ireland."

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