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ECISD leader reflects on coming to America at 3 and the impact of education on his life

Mauricio Marquez's mother knew the impact education could have, and he's stuck with that message over the years.

ODESSA, Texas — Before you can appreciate where Mauricio Marquez is and what he does, you have to understand where he came from and what he had to go through to get here.

“My story is kind of one of humble beginnings. My parents came to the states searching for the American dream. Just like every parent wants the best for their own kids. So, my parents came here wanting to make sure that me and my two older brothers had to opportunities that, unfortunately, back in their home country, they were not able to have,” said Mauricio Marquez, Exec. Dir. Of Leadership for ECISD.

Born in 1975, Mauricio’s parents moved to Texas from Chihuahua, Mexico, when he was three years old. His father died three years later, leaving his mother to raise three children on her own, and facing a challenging decision: stay in Texas or go back to Mexico. She chose to stay.

“My mom never dated, never remarried. She, basically, dedicated her life to us. She basically told us school is your ticket. School is your ticket because, unfortunately, we didn't have the financial means,” Marquez said.

Mauricio's mom was not educated and didn't speak English, but she knew the power of education. There was a strict rule: home after school and straight to homework.

“That was not an option. That was non-negotiable. Everything that the school said, that's what we did because she entrusted the school community to take care of us. So, she never questioned the school system. It was always about making sure we went to school and always did the very best that we could,” said Marquez.

School can be rough, especially when you're a six-year-old bilingual student, whose first language is Spanish and you don't know English.

That trust, that faith, that instruction, paid off. Mauricio graduated from Monahans High in 1994. He went on to earn an associate degree from Midland College, then a bachelor's and master's degree in leadership from UT Permian Basin.

His teaching resume is quite impressive. His first job was at Ector Junior High in 1998 where he later became an administrator. He went on to become assistant principal at Burleson Elementary, principal at Blackshear, then Crocket Junior High, and finally, he was named the principal for Odessa High, where he has been for the last 5 years.

Now, after 25 years with ECISD, there's something new.

“At 18-years old, I knew what I was going to do with my life. I knew one day I was going to be a teacher. Never thought, in my wildest dreams that I would be a principal, or now the executive director of leadership,” Marquez said.

While his new job is to supervise and advise principals on 11 school campuses, his primary focus remains on the students, who he calls "his kids," especially those of poverty and Hispanic backgrounds, making sure they never give up and always do their best, just like his mother did for him.

With everything he's been through and accomplished, Marquez says one thing has been a constant factor: the Mexican culture he grew up with.

“It's huge! I think it's everything. I'll be honest with you. I think it's our experiences is who we are. Through those challenges, I think it's, it becomes, again, engrained in what you do,” Marquez said.

Mauricio says he is the prime example of "everything is possible.” And if given the chance, he wouldn't change any part of his life's journey.

“Those challenges that I’ve had throughout my life are the reason that I am in the position that I am today. They made me who I am today. There are certain things that are ‘non-negotiables’ for me,” Marquez said.

He tells his story to students and staff as a means of encouragement, but in the end, he's still quite humble.

A lot of people pay money for tickets to the Powerball. Mauricio's jackpot didn't cost him a dime.

“I always tell people, I won the lottery the day I was born because I was born to a lady by the name of Rosa Marquez... We'll never be able to repay our mother for what she was able to do for us. So, she is the pillar, the pillar of our family. She is the reason I have had success in this life. Again, I thank God, but, at the end of the day, I thank my mother for everything she was able to do, for me," Marquez said.

Marquez said leaving Odessa High to become the executive director of leadership was the hardest decision he's ever had to make in his career.

In Marquez’s office there is a plaque on the wall that reads: "Refuse to be average. Always do your best." Marquez says he's made it a point to say that to his students, ever since he became an elementary principal.

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