Category: Featured Scholar
Sandra Echeverría has an unshakable determination to help others. This commitment stems largely from her own experience seeing those she loved struggle daily to have a meal to eat. In their home country of Ecuador, Sandra’s family lived in abject poverty among conditions that led to disease and early death of a newborn younger brother and cousin. Now, Sandra lives out her desire to help others through researching health interventions and fostering relationships as a mentor to students and colleagues alike.
Mariela Fernandez is proud of where she came from. Nicknamed “the Valley,” four hours south of San Antonio, TX, Harlingen is many things at once. Harlingen residents navigate two worlds at the same time, constantly switching between English and Spanish. Although sizable, Harlingen has the type of small-town sentiment that produces lifelong residents. Mariela was one of the few who eventually did leave, but she has never strayed far from the path that all started at a Texas Visitor’s Center.
Linda Charmaraman grew up with parents who came to the U.S. with a dream of providing a good education for their children and a better life for their family. They left the comfort of familiar soil in Thailand for a life that was less than easy. Growing up in an underprivileged community in South Central Los Angeles, Linda did not think she had an opportunity to make a change. She eventually learned that she could use research to find loopholes in a change-resistant system. Linda uses data to influence policymakers and those who have the power to help youth that do not have a voice.
Brent Langellier has always been a stickler when it comes to social justice. It has taken many forms in his life, from providing food and water to deported immigrants in Mexican border towns in Arizona to majoring in Latin American Studies to researching health disparities among racial and ethnic minorities.
From an early age, Keisha Bentley-Edwards recognized some of the injustices and inequities that face certain communities, particularly people of color and/or low-income communities. Although Keisha grew up in Santa Ana, CA in a working class neighborhood with gang violence, she was exposed to more resources than her peers, including a gifted and talented program.
As an undergrad at UTEP, Brisa studied math, a subject she loves, and aspired to become a math teacher. However, after visiting high school classes as part of her training, Brisa realized the challenges of teaching math to teenagers go beyond just the math. “Although my admiration for high school teachers increased even more with those classroom visits, I just knew I couldn’t be a good ‘math shepherd’ to teenagers,” she remembers.
Finding her calling wasn’t a straightforward process. Erin began her career pursuing a Ph.D. in biochemistry. When she realized that wasn’t for her, she got into breast cancer research. That wasn’t the right path for her either; as she explains, “I wanted to be connected with the community.” Finally, she hit upon the right line of research with pediatric obesity prevention. She became captivated with the idea of schools as a vehicle for helping kids become healthy and active.