I’ve met a series of professional women throughout my life. Whether they’re engineers, teachers, or business women, they’ve all influenced me in some way or another. However, none of them had managed to leave an emotional impression on me that went beyond awe for their strength and determination.
It feels as if I’ve been searching for a role model my entire life. I’ve been looking someone with whom I can connect with beyond professional and polite conversations and smiles. I’m well aware of what the role of a mentor is supposed to be – I’ve had the definition drummed into my head through countless business seminars.
Isabelle Salazar changed my life. She is not only my journalism adviser – someone I automatically respect because of her position of power as my teacher – but she has also become a close friend and confidant. She’s the person I come to first when I have an issue I need help dealing with or when I have good news to share. She has gone above and beyond her responsibilities as my adviser and words cannot express how thankful I am to have her as a mentor. I’ve known Ms. Salazar for the entirety of my high school career and with high school graduation being nearly two months away, the four years of knowing her seem like a lifetime.
Ms. Salazar is the person that made me realize that I wanted to pursue a career in journalism. Since the moment I realized what I wanted to do with my life – pursue a communications degree, work for Univision – I’ve worked hard to prove not only to myself but to her that I have what it takes to achieve my goals. I’ve attended session after session of social media and journalism trainings to become better at what I do.
Ms. Salazar changed my life for the better because she’s been there for me when I need her. She was one of the first people I told that I am an undocumented, DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) student and since then, she has stopped at nothing to help me on the path to a higher education – including, accompanying me to St. Louis, Missouri when my parents weren’t able to do so due to their immigration status.
Our relationship is all about giving as much as we get. She shares with me as much as I share with her. I’ve told Ms. Salazar some pretty emotional and deep stuff. She’s seen me at my worst and she’s seen me at my best. Through our time together, she’s almost become a second mother to me, although her young age says so otherwise.
I have spilled the darkest secrets of my past that aren’t really so secret anymore. She was one of the first people I told about my past before coming to Austin – from crossing the Mexico-U.S. border to living with an abusive father. Ms. Salazar helped me free myself from what was holding me back: fear of judgement.
I’ve always been ashamed of my immigration status and I’ve always been ashamed of revealing any details of my abusive childhood. The fear of judgement plagued my mind for years on end and it severely damaged many relationships for me.
However, she encouraged me to share my story through The Maroon, our news magazine that has an audience of about 2,100 students, staff, and faculty. I wrote a commentary piece that spread over nearly four pages. I wrote my story with great detail and poured my heart into it. After the story went into print, many of my peers came up to me, thanking me for sharing my story with raw honesty. They trusted me enough to share with me that we’re not so different; they trusted me enough to tell me that they too are undocumented.
I would have never dared to even think of sharing my story with more people than necessary if it hadn’t been for my adviser. Ms. Salazar has not just been a mentor and a friend. She gave me courage and she gave me strength, and I will always be thankful for that.