When Adriana Duran crossed the stage at her UTSA graduation ceremony earlier this month, she was thinking about her parents.
She was thinking about their sacrifice, bringing their family to the United States from Mexico in the 1970s so their children would have a better life. She was thinking about how they inspired her own work ethic even though they didn’t go on to higher education themselves.
After a decades-long journey, the longtime instructional assistant at the Holmgreen Center earned a bachelor’s degree in Interdisciplinary Studies with a special education concentration.
“Life things happened and made me stop taking classes,” Duran said. “This was something I was supposed to do. I had the notion to be the first in my family to graduate from college. Thirty years later, I’m still going to be the first. I want to inspire my family and my students that it’s never too late to do what you want to do. Your education is important.”
Duran has been at the Holmgreen Center since 1999 after previously working in psychiatric hospitals and the Juvenile Justice Academy. She started going to school to become a school worker, but then adopted her daughter and stopped. When her daughter was a junior in high school, Duran decided to go back and finish her degree. Her daughter is now in college.
“I finally did it, I broke the cycle,” she says. “It’s going to be different now. I can be the example.”
Duran found support from Northside through the Pathways Program for Teacher Preparation. It’s a partial tuition reimbursement program for NISD instructional assistants, secretaries, and other classified or auxiliary staff who are currently taking college coursework toward teacher certification in certain areas.
“Take advantage of the program Northside offers,” Duran says. “I had the motivation to go back and the means through NISD. It’s important for instructional assistants to know that. They’ll help you and there are other forms of assistance. Every bit helps and helps keep you accountable.”
Her support system also included her colleagues at Holmgreen who helped her through challenges, like math courses and creating presentations, and have watched with pride as she crossed the finish line.
“She is resilient,” says Sandra Valles, Holmgreen Center principal. “She is a hard worker, innovator, and builds positive relationships with students and staff. She is often seen as a mentor to new teachers/staff due to her knowledge base. Her success story is about never giving up and believing in yourself at any age.”
Duran says it’s emotional to think about letting go of her role as an instructional assistant but it’s time for a new chapter as a teacher.
“I’m ready for a new beginning,” Duran says. “For the longest time, it was about this building and this school. My heart is with secondary students but it’s wherever I feel I’m needed the most. I’ll still be an NISD employee. I hope to be here 20 more years.”