Tenacity and Gratitude: The Story of Seyda Zeron
"Why do you want to be a bilingual teacher?" asked Dr. Ginny Torres- Rimbau, Director of the Dual Language Program at the University of St. Thomas in Houston, to prospective student Seyda Zeron.
"Because it is a personal achievement,” Zeron said. “I want to support other immigrant students in our language with my testimony and be a mentor to them.”
With that response and enormous tenacity, in 2016, Seyda Zeron was accepted into the prestigious higher education program.
"When I met Seyda, I was impressed by her story," Torres-Rimbau said. With two young children and one of them still in her arms, I could see the determination in her eyes. I could tell nothing would interfere between Seyda, and her dual language teacher degree."
Zeron's Journey from the Honduras
Born in a rural community in Honduras, Zeron stopped attending school when she was in the 6th grade.
"We were five siblings, and I was the oldest,” Zeron said. “I had to help my mom take care of my little brothers and bring food to the table."
In 1998, Hurricane Mitch devastated her community, forcing Zeron and her family to evacuate.
"The authorities transferred us from the field to some lots so we could make tents,” she said. “That was very hard."
Years went by, and seeing that the situation did not improve, Zeron emigrated to the United States. She crossed Central America and arrived in Mexico where she made a living cleaning offices. Finally, she decided to cross the Río Grande. It was early morning. Her only belongings were her clothes and the inflatable tire on which she floated.
Zeron Learns English, Obtains GED, Attends HCC and UST
Initially, Zeron lived in Austin, Texas, where she married, gave birth to a daughter and supported her family as a domestic worker. In 2011, she settled in Houston, Texas. As she remembered the American aid workers she met in her childhood in Honduras, she strived to be bilingual.
"I went to English classes in churches and in community centers,” Zeron said. That's how I learned about the GED diploma to get the equivalent of high school. When I passed, I applied to Houston Community College. (HCC)”
Zeron’s 3.8 GPA earned her a full scholarship at the University of St. Thomas.
"You can't imagine the headaches,” she said. “I cried as I studied, but I thought that in Honduras, I would never have the opportunity to do this!"
Now, at 38 years of age, and in the final stretch of her studies, Zeron has completed her practice as a teacher at Benavides Elementary School at the Houston Independent School District. The school has a large number of immigrant children.
"I want to teach them that we, as Hispanic immigrants have a great responsibility to maintain the country that has hosted us and allows us to be here," she said.
Humble Peasant who Knocked on the Doors of the Palace
For her professor and ally, Dr. Ginny Torres-Rimbau, Zeron exemplifies the values of the University of St. Thomas.
"I have enormous faith in Seyda,” Torres-Rimbau said. “I am sure she will be a great educator, and she will represent the mission of the University in the community."
While acknowledging that not everything has been rosy, Zeron describes her life as a tale full of gratitude and opportunities.
"Thank you for paying attention to the story of a humble peasant woman who came to knock on the doors of the palace,” Zeron said. “They were opened to me, not as a servant but as a queen. They gave me all the help I needed. From the beginning, it was the gasoline that gave me the energy to move forward."
At her graduation ceremony on December 13 at Smart Financial Centre in Sugar Land, Zeron with be among 398 undergraduates and 436 graduates from the classes of Winter 2019, May 2020, Summer 2020 and Winter 2020.