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The University of Houston
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News & Events

Living up to her parents’ dreams to become a first

Briseida Gámez earns her family’s first college degree, joins U.S. Army after graduation

Briseida Gamez

Briseida Gámez grew up in Houston knowing the value of hard work.

Her parents, immigrants from Mexico, worked tirelessly to provide Gámez and her brother with basic necessities. Living in a neighborhood where the average income was below the poverty line and many of the teenagers in the area started families while still in high school and/or dropped out before earning a diploma, Gámez worked hard to have a different future.

This May, her persistence paid off.

Her bachelor’s degree in Communications makes her the first person in her family to earn a college degree.

“My father used to tell me, ‘Mija la educacion es importante,” she said. “Pero que no se te olvide quien y de donde eres. Tu eres Mexico-Americana. Siempre ten orgullo en tu patria Chicana.’”

(“Education is important, but don’t forget who and where you are from. You are Mexican-American; always have pride in your Chicana background.”)

For Gámez’s parents, new pencils and erasers were luxuries they did not have in their small rural town in San Luis Potosi, Mexico. When they arrived in Texas, Gámez’s mother worked as a house maid. She was terrified of the washing machine that she was supposed to use as part of her daily duties. Her father has worked as a construction worker for his entire life.

“My family might not have been rich, but we were definitely rich in history and in heart,” said Gámez, who was born in the United States.

As a student at Cesar E. Chavez High School in Houston, Gámez joined the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps.

“JROTC was a mock military class headed by outstanding former Army personnel, many of whom were always there to give advice and offer personal mentorship for students,” said Gámez. “It was during this time, alongside military veterans, that I acquired a sense of wanting to do more, achieve more, and ultimately challenge myself to become something greater than I could imagine.”

Scholarships enabled her to graduate from UH without debt and without having to get a job, which allowed her to fully concentrate on her education. She is a recipient of a Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Scholarship and a Jones Endowment Scholarship.

“I stayed up late many nights during high school applying for every scholarship possible, sometimes asking for free stamps from the finance office to lessen the financial strain,” said Gámez.

While at UH, Gámez worked with the Texas Freedom Network, a civil rights organization. She also joined the Community Emergency Response Team, a disaster-preparedness group.

She selected public relations as the concentration for her Communications major because she enjoys speaking with the media and preparing for events.

Gámez credits the Jack J. Valenti School of Communication faculty, and especially Assistant Professor Dr. Jennifer Vardeman-Winter, with mentoring her and offering her practical experiences through classes as well as internship opportunities.

“Seida brought lots of great energy to our class and she is passionate about social issues like young adult voting, immigration, and health care reform,” said Dr. Vardeman-Winter. “She also impressed me by seeking out additional opportunities to learn about public relations and communication outside of class. I have lots of confidence in the future with students like Seida becoming the next generation of leaders.”

As Gámez neared graduation, she reflected on her time in the JROTC at Chavez, and decided that she wanted to enlist in the U.S. Army. This summer she moves to Fort Jackson, S.C. to begin basic training.

Following basic training, she will take additional airborne training to learn how to jump out of airplanes. During her four-year and six months military commitment, she will develop the skills to become a Human Resources specialist.

“At first, my parents were worried about my decision to join the Army, especially since I am a girl,” said Gámez. “But now they are very supportive.”

After her military commitment is over, Gámez  plans to enroll in graduate school to study public policy. Ultimately, she would like to work for the Veteran’s Administration, helping to eliminate some of the organization’s notorious red tape.

“UH provides students with the opportunity to learn about the world and have positive experiences,” said Gámez. “I feel like I have learned some real world skills at UH that I will use in my future.”

- By Monica Byars