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July 2016 Resilience in Action Award: Lourdes Baker

"Coming from a family of twelve siblings, life has been anything but easy. But the will to survive, excel, and succeed in life has been a self-instilled discipline that has taught her the biggest lesson: Resilience. This was what she would need to survive. This was and is the key to her success.

Imagine moving from the comfort of familiarity, Mexico, and being plunged into a world of chaos where the language was different, the culture was unfamiliar, and you felt like an outsider. Welcome to the U.S.A. No one in Lourdes’s family spoke English. Her parents each had no more than an elementary school education. Yet still, they had taken this chance on life, and had moved to the United States. Their lack of education provided limited options as far as job placement, so both her parents and many of her siblings found work in the fields in order to provide a better life for the family.

While the family worked hard in the fields, nine year old Lourdes had been placed in the first grade. What an awkward situation for a child this young. She was taunted by other children with racial slurs that she didn’t understand at the time. Because of a language barrier, no one in her family was able to come to her aid. Yet still, Lourdes Baker endured. Even when children do not understand the words, they understand the treatment, the body language, the pain of being shunned.

For many, this is enough to shut one down emotionally. And this is where the resilience comes in. There has to be a certain mindset. 'I CAN do it, I WANT to do it, I WILL do it, and I DID it.'

On the home front, Lourdes had to contend with an alcoholic father who was abusive to her mother. As a result, fear often crept into her life, and yet hope was something of which Lourdes never lost sight.

At age twelve, disaster struck. Three of Lourdes’ brothers were killed by a drunk driver. This devastation took its toll on her mother, who became emotionally withdrawn from life. Enduring the pain of losing three sons was unbearable. As tragedy loomed, self-reliance became a coping skill for Lourdes, who eventually mastered the English language, and went on to become the first in her family to graduate high school and go on to college. She knows about working twice as hard on something to achieve success. Resilience, once again resonates. Lourdes went on to earn a Bachelor’s degree, a Master of Counseling degree, and a Master of Educational Leadership degree.

From her days as a young, struggling child, Lourdes has climbed the ranks. She has transitioned from an elementary schoolteacher to a more current status of Dean of Students, and finally, Principal. Not only is she principal, she is principal at an alternative high school. The school has a high percentage of Hispanic students. More than a specific ethnicity with which to identify, it is the students as a whole, to which Lourdes can relate. She understands the struggles, for they haven’t changed; she understands the lack of support; she understands the alienation that hinders most; and she understands the resolve that is needed, the resilience it takes, to get up, get up, get up, no matter how many times life tries to keep you down.  

Lourdes demonstrates resilience in action by the tender loving care she shows to her students. Students see the business side of her that makes it a point to talk about the importance of education. Even as she stresses the importance of education, she is nurturing on an individual basis. She holds students accountable. 'How many credits do you have? When are you supposed to graduate? What can you do to make up that credit?' She pushes the students.

Lourdes was able to coordinate an after school program that would serve as additional credit recovery for struggling students. Sometimes we all need a push. It’s for our own good. It is all a part of resilience in action." - Teena Bolton, Teacher, Coworker

WhyTry is pleased to present Lourdes Baker with the July 2016 Resilience in Action Award for her remarkable story, will, and dedication to the students in her community. If you would like to nominate someone for the Resilience in Action Award, please CLICK HERE

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