Hard work is important for any child to succeed, but parental involvement also makes a difference. Luckily for children without that at-home support, there are people like University of Houston-Victoria graduate student Veronica Gonzalez.
Gonzalez, 24, recently completed training to become a surrogate parent in the Victoria Independent School District. In her new role, she represents students with disabilities, making decisions on their behalf much the way Mom or Dad would.
“I basically have the same rights,” she said. “I’ll get their report cards and I can call to check in with a teacher on how they’re doing. I just don’t bring them home.”
While new to being a surrogate parent, Gonzalez knew she would be a good fit.
Gonzalez’s mother, a teacher for 20-plus years, offered her special insight into the education world and the situations some children face. Her mother’s experience, combined with her love of working with children, fueled Gonzalez’s decision to make a difference.
“There are so many kids who see many bad things in life,” she said. “To have the chance to be a bright spot in their week – even if it’s just by going to eat lunch with them – it’s worth it.”
The Brownsville native earned her bachelor’s degree in communications with an emphasis in print journalism from the University of Texas-Pan American. She moved to Victoria shortly after for a newspaper job and later joined the master’s publishing program at UHV.
Beyond school, Gonzalez is active in her local church and soon will start a part-time job training dogs at a Victoria pet store.
A lifetime animal lover, she looks forward to the challenge.
“A well-trained dog is a joy,” Gonzales said. “I’ve enjoyed training my own dogs, Tuck and Maddox.”
Gonzalez admitted that between classes, her job and other activities, she’s always on the go. Still, it’s worth it because she is doing things she loves. Gonzalez encouraged others to do the same. Students should step back, evaluate where they are focusing their energy and make sure they are following their heart.
“If your heart’s not in it, it’s not going to work out,” she said. “But if you love what you’re doing, even if you’re busy and running all over the place, you’ll figure it out. That makes a real difference.”
I am a Jaguar is an online feature highlighting the exceptional students who attend the University of Houston-Victoria. To nominate a student, contact Paula Cobler, UHV interim director of marketing and communications, or call 361-570-4350.