When Julieta Maria Barrios Carcamo’s name was announced, she confidently walked across the Jenny Craig Pavilion stage, greeted USD President Mary Lyons and accepted a binder to be used for an official document as an Ethnic Studies graduate.
A double-digit cheering section was present, too, for the big day, including Barrios’ sister Ana, a 2010 USD alumna who flew in from the Midwest, several relatives and friends and her parents, Ofelia and Gabino (Julieta, Ana and parents, pictured below, in 2010).
Four years of searching, self-discovery, self-enlightenment and leadership at the University of San Diego culminated with pure joy for the Class of 2012 grad.
“I’m very happy,” Barrios said.
Barrios’ happiness is a welcomed emotion. It signals that she’s ready to close her USD chapter and eager for what’s ahead.
“Two years ago, I just didn’t realize it, see it or feel it,” she said. Barrios was a sophomore and it was her sister who was going through all of the senior hoopla. Ana was the first one in their family to graduate from college.
Ana, a talented, hard-working, student leader, majored in sociology, was a McNair Scholar and was a role model. She won awards such as the L. Reuben Mitchell Award for Campus Wide Impact at the United Front Multicultural Center’s Diversity Banquet. She was accepted into Teach for America and taught two years in a St. Louis school district. Ana is about to earn a master’s degree in secondary education. Julieta said Ana’s been hired to remain as a teacher in the St. Louis school district.
The bond between the sisters is tight and always has been, but this past weekend it was Julieta’s time to shine. Julieta won the same award that Ana did at this month’s Diversity Banquet. Ana attended Saturday’s Latina/o and Chicana/o Recognition Ceremony. She appeared briefly on stage, but in a supporting role. Julieta expressed — in Spanish — feelings about her time at USD and the support from family, friends, faculty and staff.
Julieta’s time at USD has been memorable. Initially thinking she’d major in biology — “Ever since I was a little girl I wanted to be a pediatrician; I even wrote an essay about it,” she said — she quickly became enamored with Ethnic Studies.
“I adore Paulo Freire’s book Pedagogy of the Oppressed,” she said of a book read in class. “I learned that students are not sponges, students are appreciative for what they’re being taught and hope to use it. It’s about seeing the student as a whole being rather than a robot who takes information, stores it away and puts it in a file cabinet.”
Barrios was a pre-med student, too, with coursework in physics, chemistry and biology. She was quite active in extracurricular activities, including tutoring at a local elementary school and the Southern Sudanese Community Center, student minister and a SEARCH retreat leader, co-chair of Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán (MEChA), Torero Days’ T-Squad member and she went with USD Medical Brigades’ student organization to Panama for a service trip. The latter let her connect her medical career aspirations with her Ethnic Studies teachings.
“It’s my desire to work with low-income communities,” she said. “I connect health disparities with low-income communities. I want to go to medical school. I want to connect the medical profession with my academic scholarship.”
When Barrios looked into post-USD options, she applied to the Peace Corps and AmeriCorps, but ultimately chose Teach for America.
“They told me about their medical school partnerships and how being in the program contributes to what I’d need for medical school such as good leadership, organization and management skills,” Barrios said.
She reports to Washington D.C. for orientation in June, then five weeks of training in Philadelphia before going to Prince George’s County, Maryland, to teach science for two years.
Julieta called her sister upon learning of her acceptance into Teach for America and Ana gave her some advice on what to expect.
“I want to go in with an open mind, to get to know my students first and draw my expectations from them because I think you’re not a really good teacher unless you really know your students,” Julieta said. “I’m expecting it to be very difficult, to be mentally and physically exhausting, but I feel my experience as a tutor can contribute to the way I’ll manage. I love being hands-on, and you can do so much with science to make it very interactive and engaging.”
Barrios will concurrently attend American University to start her master’s in educational leadership (science concentration) and hopes to volunteer at a local health clinic.
Her outlook is positive. She’s anxious to get started. Barrios knows she can do it. She has a sister who has done it. Full support from those who love her most have prepared her for what’s next.
“I was talking with my Mom about graduation and she told me how incredibly proud she was of me,” Barrios said. “I’m proud of my parents, more so than myself. They’ve endured so many stressful situations, emotionally, physically, health wise and financially, but they’ve put two girls through school. I’m really proud of my parents for accomplishing what they’ve done. They’ve raised two very determined, passionate, empowered women. Just thinking about it gets me teary-eyed.”
— Ryan T. Blystone