Wall of Honor 2011-2012
Ten years ago when the owner of the firm that employed both Gwinnetta Crowell and her daughter announced the business was closing, the two suddenly found themselves unemployed. The mother and daughter shared a home and the fact that both of them were out of work seemed a catastrophe. But this sudden loss became the catalyst to transform Gwinnetta’s life – she decided to pursue a long-time dream of going to college and “getting that piece of paper.”
The prospect of returning to school at age 55 while unemployed was daunting for Gwinnetta, who finished high school with a 74 GPA. She and her daughter worked together to pay the bills. Gwinnetta found part-time work that could be done at home and arranged her class schedule at Richland to be there when her grandchildren came home from school. Gwinnetta smiles remembering all the nights that she and her grandchildren sat around the kitchen table, doing their homework together.
Not only did Gwinnetta graduate cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree in interdisciplinary studies from the University of Texas Arlington, but she also went on to earn a Master of Arts degree.
Gwinnetta says that earning awards, being inducted into honor societies, receiving an undergraduate degree, and being hooded with a master’s degree set an example for her grandchildren. But she hopes they learned just as much from seeing her struggling through developmental math classes at Richland even when she initially failed all three courses.
“Hopefully, those struggles taught them valuable life lessons – that all we can expect of ourselves is to do our best. But more important, we cannot give up,” she says.
Gwinnetta has come full circle – today she is a professor of history at Richland College. Along with teaching regular college students, she also teaches dual credit students in a Learning Community. Her goal with each of her classes is to make the study of history an exciting and interesting venture.
Looking back, Gwinnetta reflects, “Had I not lost my well-paying, managerial job, I would not today be living my dream, more fulfilled and happy that I ever imagined.”
Theo Maraara didn’t know what the future held when he boarded a plane for the first time, traveling from Rwanda, Africa, to the United States in December 2007. His mother had died two years earlier and his sister, Betty, had assumed guardianship of Theo. One of the first things Betty did was to start the visa process so that Theo could go to Richland College in Dallas, where Betty lived.
Looking back Theo says, “I was one of the very few applicants upon whom luck smiled. Never in my wildest childhood dreams and imaginations did I ever think about being out here but I am living a dream now. Please don’t wake me up.”
Theo fulfilled the first part of that dream when he earned an associate’s degree in science last fall from Richland. He’s been accepted at the University of Texas at Dallas and the University of Texas at Arlington and hopes to start classes in the fall when he’s saved up enough money for tuition and secured a federal work authorization for international students. He’s still connected to Richland, working as a student assistant in World Languages, Cultures and Communications.
After college, Theo dreams of working as an electrical engineer but also of starting an organization or scholarship fund someday to help others. His says his desire to financially help students comes from being the recipient of Joe Lucky Memorial Golf Tournament Scholarship, the Sharon Conine Scholarship for International Students and Celia Riddle Millemon Scholarship.
Theo says that he owes everything to those who believed he could succeed.
“Being a Wall of Honor recipient is just too much for me to comprehend but it all comes back to that circle of wonderful human beings I have come know and admire during my time at Richland College.”
Going to college was already a long shot for Beatris Martinez, one of four children in a low-income family, but she and her parents dreamed it was possible. The dream almost slipped through her fingers when Beatris became a teenage mother the year after she graduated from high school.
But those who know Beatris know that she’s a person of strong determination and faith. She struggled financially and had to apply for government help to have the basic items for her son, enduring poor treatment and long hours of waiting. Beatris decided that one day, she would be on the “other side” helping out, not getting helped.
In 2000, she decided to go to college and chose Richland. Confused by the enrollment and tuition process, Beatris almost quit before she even began. Then she met Carol Castillo with Richland College’s Working Wonders program. Carol walked Beatris through every detail.
“Carol’s patience and guidance initiated the moment that would change the direction of my life forever,” Beatris says.
In 2002, Beatris earned an Associate of in Arts degree from Richland. In 2005, she graduated from the University of Texas at Dallas and began her teaching career in the Garland school district while going through Richland’s Teacher Alternative Certification Program. She was named the Teacher of the Year at Freeman Elementary in 2007.
Beatris earned a Master of Arts degree from Texas A&M University -Commerce in 2008 and became an administrative intern at Centerville Elementary. The next year, she was hired at Carver Elementary as an assistant principal where she remains. She was named the employee of the year at Carver in 2010. Today she is pursuing a Ph.D. in Educational Administration.
“Everyone’s life is full of choices that will end in one of two ways, a great excuse for a failure or a lesson learned for a success,” Beatris says. “The choice is yours.”
Yaqueline Rodriguez has come a long way from her first days in the United States. When she arrived from Columbia in 2001, she didn’t know a word of English. Today, she’s a bilingual 2nd grade teacher at Carver Elementary in Garland.
The journey wasn’t easy. Yaqueline started by enrolling in English for Speakers of Other Languages courses at Richland in 2001. After three years, she was ready to pursue an associate’s degree in Bilingual Education through the Richland’s Teacher Preparation Program. Yaqueline struggled during this time, going through a divorce and raising her children alone.
Despite the challenges, Yaqueline’s outstanding grades earned her an invitation to be a member of Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society. She also was named to the National Dean’s List Award in 2005. Yaqueline made the Richland College President’s Honor List twice.
In May 2007, Yaqueline graduated from Richland with a 3.68 GPA. She then transferred to Texas Woman’s University as one of the first students to participate in the transfer agreement between Richland College and TWU. In 2008, Yaqueline graduated with a bachelor’s degree in General Bilingual Education, certified to teach early childhood through 4th grade.
Her educational journey continues. She started an Educational Administration master’s degree program in July 2011 with Lamar University.
Yaqueline’s hard work, passion, and dedication have set a powerful example for her children. She has two sons attending college (one goes to Richland), a married daughter who is going back to school next semester and a daughter in middle school.
Yaqueline’s advice to those facing what seem like impossible challenges is this quote by Muhammad Ali: “Champions aren’t made in gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them a desire, a dream, a vision. They have to have the skill and the will. But the will must be stronger than the skill.”
It’s hard to believe that academics are Cory Scott’s greatest challenge.
The Richland Collegiate High School student graduated in the top 10 percent of the class of 2011. He earned a 3.85 GPA while taking 17-21 college hours each semester and completing a rigorous capstone project. Today, he’s a pre-med student at Midwestern State University.
But since childhood, Cory has battled severe dyslexia. His struggle is so intense that at times, it has interferes with his health. Preparing for class takes Cory three times as long as a student without dyslexia, yet he does whatever it takes to maintain his grades – even if it requires he get only four hours of sleep each night.
Those who know Cory say that no matter the challenges, he maintains a bright, cheery personality and a bashful smile.
“He always had a smile on his face and was the epitome of politeness and good manners,” said RCHS Principal Kristyn Edney.
Cory actively served his community by volunteering at the Rowlett Library where he coordinated the children’s reading program. He also served as a receptionist and records assistant at Lake Pointe Medical Center, where he gained insight into his intended career.
Cory also served as a mentor for RCHS incoming students. His assigned color group was one of the more active groups due in large part to his leadership. Cory was selected by RCHS staff to serve on their Campus Improvement Team because of his dedication and maturity.