Circle of Life

Once upon a time, when I was a young girl, I wanted to be a school teacher. The classroom was a place where I felt safe and secure. It’s where I learned to read, to multiply, to dream, and to be successful. My parents had instilled in me that education was going to get me far in the world; that it was the ticket to my independence. I may not be a teacher, per se, but I am an educator in the type of work I do in Student Affairs.
About a month ago, I received a facebook message from my high school history teacher, Mr. Rivera. His son, Francis, who was only about 4 or 5 years old when I was in his class, is about to start his senior year of high school! Where has time gone? Seriously! Francis is starting to look at colleges and wanted to know more about one of the public institutions in the state of Iowa (I think Mr. Rivera thought I worked at Iowa State University, but I don’t. I’m a Panther all the way! UNI Fight!) We know that Student Affairs is a small world, so I directed them to some of my colleagues who could connect him to some resources over at ISU. Francis will be visiting Iowa this month with his father, and I couldn’t be more excited over it!
Mr. Rivera and his wife, who was also a teacher (and my cheerleading coach) were some of the most influential people in my life growing up. My parents and the Rivera family developed a great relationship from the beginning. My parents trusted them...ALOT! When I was in high school, any students who were taking the U.S. History class with Mr. Rivera had an opportunity to travel to Washington, D.C. for one week to learn more about the U.S. Government (to learn more about the trip through the Close-Up Foundation, click here). I really wanted to go, but there was no way my parents were going to let me leave the country (I lived in Puerto Rico at the time). I talked to Mr. Rivera and he went personally, to talk to my parents. Once he had them convinced that this was an opportunity of a lifetime, my parents said they still couldn’t afford for me to go. Mr. Rivera pulled some strings to find scholarship monies to supplement a portion of the expenses for this trip. In February 2001, I was on my way to Capitol Hill!

People like Mr. Rivera and his wife are the reasons I wanted to be in education. Being able to develop a trusting relationship between educator/mentor and student has been an invaluable lesson to me. I remember that in grade school the teachers would tell us they were preparing us for the future…to lead, to do great things, and to make a difference. Never did I imagine my teachers would be coming to me for help one day, entrusting their child’s future in my hands (that sounds a bit dramatic, but you get the picture).
I’m sure this moment could repeat itself one day in my career, but I can’t help to think that I have arrived full-circle in giving back to the people who gave so much to me.
It’s the Circle of Life, folks, and I’m not lion (haha, get it lying).
OK…enjoy the video and sing-out loud wherever you are reading this. You know you still love this movie!

Tabatha Cruz@tabathacruz

Student Affairs - the First Years

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