When MariaRosa Rangel was a young girl growing up in a Chicago immigrant community, she took a field trip to the house of one of her grammar school teachers. Rangel saw a beautiful home and a pool and immediately wanted to have a life that could afford her those things. And she remembers her teacher saying the most important words Rangel would ever hear.
“She told me, ‘You’re the only one holding you back,'” remembers Rangel, who received her master’s in school administration from NC State in 2001. “She used to tell me that I was the engineer of my future.”
So it makes sense that Rangel, a senior administrator for the Wake County Public School System, chose education as her career path. She works with Wake County families who speak limited English and helps them navigate the school system, coordinates the system’s parent academy, and serves as the liaison for Latino media.
And for those efforts, Rangel, who was born in Mexico before her family moved to Chicago, will receive the Latino Diamante Award in the education category at a ceremony on Saturday. The Latino Diamante is a statewide awards program created to recognize outstanding achievement and to honor those making significant contributions to the Hispanic community of North Carolina.
Rangel, who also works with the Hispanic/Latino Advisory Group at NC State’s Department of Multicultural Student Affairs, says the honor means so much to her because the nomination came from within the community she’s trying to help. “These are the people that have seen me work for many years,” she says. “They watch what I do and they see what I work with. They can see my sweat from the work I’ve done.”
In addition to the Latino Diamante honor, Rangel will also receive the “Orgullo de Nuestra Comunidad” (the Pride of Our Community) award in November, given by Univision 40 to recognize outstanding Hispanic leaders in the community.
Rangel, 47, says her true reward is working directly with the Hispanic community. “I get to empower new immigrant families. I get to show them what they can have with education. I talk about my mother coming here as a single mom with five kids. And just to see a smile on their face when they get it.”