Celina Cardenas ’03, ’04

Making a Difference in Dallas

By Donna Parker

Celina Cardenas, who received her bachelor’s degree in Spanish and international studies from Trinity in 2003 and then a master’s in teaching from Trinity the following year, is excited and proud of her role as the community relations coordinator for the Richardson ISD near Dallas.  Her energy, enthusiasm, and Mexican American heritage are the key factors in contributing to her success. Combining those elements, she recently coordinated the first district college night for Spanish-speaking parents.

“We had 200 parents show up, which is huge for a first-time district event.  There were four different high schools involved and we have so many families here that are new to the United States. Our goal was to have college-ready materials available in Spanish for these parents,” says Celina.

“It was a big deal for us to pull these four high schools together and to let these parents know that, regardless of their situation, there are things such as financial aid that they can secure to help their kids get into college.”

Celina, who initiates other community involvement programs for the district, also worked on a one-day back-to-school event coordinating partners and donations of school supplies, backpacks, and social service information for 3,000 families.   She’s been on the job since June of 2006, assessing volunteer needs and donations, but says that “her entire mission was to relieve school teachers from having to spend their own money on items for the classroom.”

Celina understands how that can happen.  She spent her first two years out of Trinity teaching Spanish in a Richardson high school, while also serving as a cheerleading sponsor.  Celina credits Trinity with preparing her for this challenge.

“Trinity was the perfect school for me.  My mom worked there before I was born and asked me to consider it.  I wanted to attend Tulane and even looked at SMU, but both were overwhelming for me.  Before my senior year of high school, I applied for the Trinity writing workshop and absolutely loved it!  It was the best three weeks!  I met my roommate (who is now my best friend) and we started at Trinity.”

“Arturo Madrid, department of modern languages and literatures, was a huge mentor for me.  I did an independent study in Latino literature and truly got into the language and culture, studying abroad in Spain for a summer.  Matt Stroud, department of modern languages and literatures, worked with me on my writing skills and how to best express myself in romantic writing.  It was nice to have someone appreciate my own romantic theory about things.”

“Really, Trinity helped me focus on my career and find my passion.  I’m confident now about being an independent woman and even volunteer in mentoring other young Hispanic women.  Right now, I just go where I’m needed.”

You may e-mail Celina at Celina.cardenas@risd.org.