Using her voice

A lifetime of both difficult and exceptional experiences have shaped not only who Maria Munoz’ is as a person, but the entire path she sees for her future. Originally from Laredo, Munoz and her family relocated to the Bryan-College Station area in 2011 in an effort to break the poverty cycle for the next generation.

After graduating from high school in the spring of 2013, Munoz set to work on achieving her goals and enrolled in education classes at Blinn College with the plan to become a teacher.

“For me getting an education means that I have made something of myself and set myself up for success,” said Munoz “It has really given me a sense of empowerment that no matter where I came from or what I experienced I stood resilient and have come out the other side.”

During her first year at Blinn Munoz struggled with her math class and ended the semester feeling burned out academically. Unfortunately, it was around that time her mom became ill with heart failure. Munoz had always been encouraged by her family to attend college, but she was at an impasse. Ultimately, she stepped away from school and focused on serving her family.

“I was frustrated with school and I knew that I needed to take a step back in order to help my family,” said Munoz. “So I quit school, found a full-time job and put my attention on my family and younger siblings.”

After three years, and with her mom on the mend, Munoz felt it was time to return to her academic goals. But in the interim time away, her focus for her future had dramatically shifted. She still planned to serve others, but she felt called to help in a different way.

“All the support and help we received when my family was really struggling served as a light for us and seeing it firsthand made me realize that I wanted to serve as the voice for others,” said Munoz. “My desire to help others by sharing resources and letting them know that there is always a way out of bad situations pushed me to change my major to social work.”

Upon returning to Blinn Munoz realized that they only offered two courses in social work and that she would have to move in order to work toward her goals. Instead of letting that deter her, she made plans to take the next steps.

In the summer of 2020, Munoz was all set to move and enroll in social work courses at a different university when she received an email about the upcoming Bachelor of Social Work program being offered by Tarleton State University at the RELLIS Campus.

“For me, this opportunity was amazing because it meant I didn’t have to move and leave my family in order to pursue my education,” said Munoz. “I immediately shifted my plans and worked on applying and enrolling in courses for the fall.”

After a virtual semester, Munoz is thrilled to physically be on campus and interacting with students from different universities and majors. She is already working toward leaving her mark on the social work program through the establishment of a social work student organization and a food pantry on campus.

“As the only student in the program it has been incredible to work one-on-one with Dr. Marek these past two semesters,” said Munoz. “This spring being on campus has allowed me to build a connection with everyone else here and I am excited to get involved.”

With an eye toward effecting actual change for others in need and armed with a multi-step plan to work first in the Child Protective Services area before moving into programs for adults with substance abuse, Munoz has big plans to use her previous experience and education after graduation.

“I just want to advocate for those who don’t feel like they have a voice and can’t advocate for themselves,” said Munoz. “I feel like if I have actual experience working with all different types of people in all kinds of situations I can actually help change things for the better.”

Originally published April 15, 2021