Your past does not define your future

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Longtime PSJA Educators Earn Doctorates, Inspire Future Generations  

Motivated by their desire to continue their education, two longtime Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD educators recently graduated from the Texas A&M University-Kingsville doctoral program in educational leadership in August 2018. Dr. Ruben Borrego and Dr. Rosalina Garcia-Borrego, both high school dropouts and sweethearts, hope their educational journey inspires students to overcome adversity.

After dropping out of PSJA High School to go work in the fields her sophomore year and getting married, Raul Longoria Elementary Principal Garcia-Borrego realized that she had other aspirations for her future.

“I got married at the sweet age of 16, so my only option was to go work in the fields at the time,” she said of her experience as a migrant. “But once I was there, I realized that was not what I wanted to do the rest of my life.”

It was then that, despite not knowing how to drive, Garcia-Borrego managed to drive herself back to school, complete her senior year, and get caught up just in time to graduate with her class from PSJA High School in 1983.  

Inspired by his wife’s determination to continue her education and their constant struggles to make ends meet, Borrego made the decision to go back to school a few years later and earned his GED in 1987 at the age of 24.

“I married a tenacious young lady who wanted to have her high school diploma whether she was married or not,” said Borrego, who is the PSJA Student Services director. “It was then that I realized that I was working so hard as a laborer for such a small check. I was bilingual and knew how to read, so I decided to go back to finish school.”

Soon after, both started working as paraprofessionals at Henry Ford Elementary and Bowie Elementary in PSJA ISD, but their joint desire to better themselves led them to earn their Bachelor’s of Arts in interdisciplinary studies with a minor in bilingual education from the then-University of Texas-Pan American in 1992 and later a master’s in reading from then-UTPA in 2000.  

“It was very difficult for me because I had never given myself the opportunity to do the coursework,” said Borrego of the challenges they faced pursuing a post-secondary education. “Once I started applying myself, I realized that I could do it. I still remember how I felt getting an ‘A’ in my very first college class.”

During this time, the couple went on to become teachers at Zeferino Farias Elementary and Cesar Chavez Elementary. Eventually, they both moved on to serve as principals in PSJA ISD.  

For Garcia-Borrego, being a teacher made her discover her passion for literacy and realize the huge impact educators can have on children.

“I loved teaching kids how to read, especially children like me who were ELL [English Language Learners] and migrants, as I knew it was important for them to have role models,” she said. “With that in mind, I left the classroom to expand my borders and to teach others the value of literacy and reading because it can open doors or it can close doors.”

Having served in leadership roles within the district for several years, the couple decided to embark on one final educational journey in pursuit of a doctorate in educational leadership from Texas A&M University in June 2016. Together, they completed their lifetime milestone when they graduated earlier this month with their doctorate — together once again.

According to the educators, this accomplishment would not have been possible without the endless support of their PSJA family.

“I am so grateful to PSJA Superintendent Dr. King,” Garcia-Borrego said. “He’s a role model for so many of us. He supported me and my husband by allowing us to go to school and grow as leaders.”

Humbled by how far they have come, both longtime educators emphasized that the most valuable takeaway from their educational journey has been that anything is possible if you are willing to work hard for it.

“I was the first in a family of 120 cousins to graduate from college and the first now to earn my doctorate,” Borrego said. “To any student or anyone overcoming significant obstacles, your past does not define your future. If you work hard today, know that you will change the lives of your children and grandchildren.”

Courtesy photo

Dr. Ruben Borrego and Dr. Rosalina Garcia-Borrego receive their doctorate in educational leadership during their August 2018 graduation from Texas A&M University-Kingsville.