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Blinn graduate defies the odds in pursuit of education

Katerin Meza left rural Honduras at 16 to build new life in Bryan-College Station

January 15, 2016

Katerin MezaWith only “hey” and “goodbye” in her English repertoire, Katerin Meza set out for America at age 16 to chase an enduring dream.

Dizzy with nervousness and excitement, Meza left her beloved grandmother, affectionately known as “Abuelita,” to pursue her education in the United States in 2009. It was an uncommon goal for a young woman from rural Honduras, where children as young as 8 years old often leave school to help provide for their families.

“Abuelita always taught me that I could do anything I wanted as long as I worked hard for it,” Meza said. “She has always believed in me and wanted better for me. She still encourages me even though we’re 2,000 miles apart.”

Meza grew up in Catacamas Olancho, a village in eastern Honduras. She woke at 5 a.m. daily to prepare tortillas from scratch and tend the banana plantation behind her home before embarking on an hour-and-a-half walk to school.

“I was shocked when I moved here,” Meza said. “The food, the culture – everything was completely different.”

Meza moved to Bryan and took on two part-time jobs to sustain life on her own. She poured over “The Hunger Games” trilogy and spent hours watching “Project Runway” and “America’s Next Top Model” to grasp English.
She completed one year at Bryan High School before transferring to Mary Catherine Harris School, with a non-traditional, self-paced learning environment that allowed her to master English and accelerate her education. She completed high school in just two years while balancing a job at a fast-food restaurant and a trucking company.

In Spring 2013, she enrolled in courses on the Blinn-Bryan campus with aspirations of transferring to Texas A&M University to study communications and journalism. She joined the newly-formed First Generation Student Organization and was quickly elected president by her peers.

“First Gen is wonderful because we help students feel welcome,” Meza said. “I love helping people, and that’s what I get to do in this organization. I am very thankful to Blinn and all of the great opportunities it has given me.”

This semester, Meza’s hard work will pay off as she begins classes at Texas A&M. When she received her acceptance letter in October, she had to wait five days for her scheduled call to Abuelita, who does not have a home phone.

“It was so hard to wait to tell her,” Meza said. “I was calling everyone else and putting it all over Facebook. Getting accepted means a lot to me. When you work hard for something, you can get it. I’m excited to learn. There are so many things I’m nervous about, but I think that’s okay. I just want to learn and keep helping students like me.”

Meza is the first of her six siblings to graduate high school and attend college. She hopes to earn a bachelor’s degree in journalism and become a TV news reporter. Without Blinn and the assistance of its staff, including financial aid director Brent Williford and academic advisor Edith Pequeno, Meza said she wouldn’t have been able to fund her education or transfer to Texas A&M.

“It has been my dream to get into A&M and I knew Blinn had a lot of opportunities to transfer,” Meza said. “Getting involved at Blinn and getting to know my professors has been an amazing experience. I wouldn’t be going to A&M without Blinn.”

“Education changes lives,” she said. “Whenever you are educated, you can change the world. It sounds big, but it’s true. Honduras is a great country, but I see that there is more we can do. It doesn’t matter where you are from or the color of your skin. You can be successful.”

Registration for the Spring semester is available through Jan. 18, with classes beginning Jan. 19. For enrollment information and to learn about financial aid opportunities, visit: www.blinn.edu.