Irvin Parga, a senior in the IUE studying Middle School Mathematics, and the recipient of the Jerry and Patty Reese Family Foundation Scholarship for the IUE, shared his story at the UMKC School of Education’s Scholar Donor Lunch in September. A first-generation college student, Parga has experienced first-hand the power of relationships.
“I remember first meeting (Assistant Clinical Professor) Dr. Uzziel Pecina at a summer enrichment camp called Avanzando,” Parga recalled.
“He understands the lack of Hispanic leaders in the field of education. Once he knew how passionate I was about educating my community, he took me in as his mentee. I don’t have any uncles to talk to but he has been the closest thing because he always has the time to check on me to see where I am at in the program or just see how I’m doing in life. It’s powerful knowing that someone who is just like you has been successful; he inspires me in and out of the classroom.”
Parga continued, “One reason I was attracted to teaching was because I grew up with the notion that people should be treated fairly, respected, and have their needs met in order to continue an education that will help in the pursuit of their dreams and to positively impact our communities. I want to better prepare students and increase awareness in Hispanic families on how college is possible.”
Recognizing his parents as influential role models, Parga believes parents, guardians, teachers and community members must all set good examples and set children up for success. “We can begin with building good relationships with the children,” he said, because it is only then that effective teaching can commence.
Parga credits learning the importance of relationships from Dr. Jason Beavers, an adjunct professor at UMKC and deputy superintendent at Hogan Preparatory Academy charter school in Kansas City.
“I learned from him what it meant to be a social capitalist,” he explained. “In life, we are born with different opportunities. The opportunities that are within my grasp in Wyandotte County (Ks.) are going to be different than the average person’s opportunities that grew up in Johnson County (Ks.). An important skill for any urban youth to learn is to build relationships with good people because they may be the ones who help you down the road.
“Where urban youth lack resources, building relationships can help in achieving personal and professional goals. Every student is chasing a dream that’s bigger than him or herself. We’re all fighting for the dreams of our city’s children to shed their light on our communities. None of this would be possible if it weren’t for the support from scholarship donors and the persistence from our future teachers. I’m proud to be among the people who will do whatever it takes to ensure educational equality for generations to come.”