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Alumni: Where are they now?

Marcos Silva, co-founder of Border Kids Code and an Advancement Via Individual Determination-ACT Test Preparation educator at Idea Quest in Edinburg with his students./Brenda Garza/The Rider
Marcos Silva, co-founder of Border Kids Code and an Advancement Via Individual Determination-ACT Test Preparation educator at Idea Quest in Edinburg with his students./Brenda Garza/The Rider

Name: Marcos Silva

Age: 29

Hometown: McAllen

Degrees: Master’s in educational leadership, bachelor in psychology with a minor in communication

Graduation year: 2012

Current job: Co-founder of Border Kids Code and Advancement via Individual Determination-ACT Test Preparation educator at Idea Quest in Edinburg and cohort of TED-Ed Innovative Educators.

How would you describe your college years? “I would describe them as a learning curve. I came from a migrant family, so there was definitely this huge learning curve that I had to undertake just to understand how this whole place worked. So, that was very interesting in the beginning.”

What were your favorite things to do while in college? “I was very involved with student government and the University Program Board and all of that, so I never had time to eat. Every time I remember college years, I always remember going to the Student Union and getting an oatmeal cookie with cream and that was my lunch.”

What do you miss most about college? “The camaraderie. The years that I was here I built a circle of friends. Luckily, it was a circle of friends that wanted more for themselves. We all did. So, when we left college, everybody kind of just went their own ways with their jobs. We had built this tight-knit circle and I miss that. I miss the late nights. Now we have to be adults.”

What motivated you to pursue your degree? “I was always really intrigued with how people worked and how people would think. At a young age, I told myself that if I were able to understand that, everything else would come easy. In terms of teaching someone how to learn or having somebody be on my side of the team, I would have made more sense of the world if I learned individually how one person at a time would think.”

Did your degree prepare you for the real world? “College prepared me for the real world; I don’t think that necessarily my degree did.”

Describe what you do in your job. “As an educator I’m lucky that it’s an elective class and so, I have a lot of free say in terms of what projects I can work on. Right now, I’m working on the South Texas Idea Festival. With my business or my program, I’ve created an organization that is pushing the fundamentals of computer science through coding and programming and we are doing it in a very different approach than the rest of the country. We are going through educators instead of just student interests. In my business, I oversee the program, the curriculum and the contracts that we have with the school districts around here.”

Do you do something else besides your current job? “I just joined the cohort of TED-Ed Innovative Educators. I am one of 30 educators from around the world who are part of this program. There are people from Pakistan, Canada and all these different places, and we reimagine the education system in our heads and in our own ways try to develop programs that positively affect our community.”

What experiences have you had that you would say are out of the ordinary? “I think that when graduating I left to Vermont and worked for this camp. I was in charge of eight kids with Asperger and in the camp itself was 120. Mental health was just not what I expected. I studied psychology, so I should have been exposed to it, but it wasn’t embedded in my culture to really understand what it was. So, being submerged into that was a complete shock, but it was beautiful in terms of being able to learn and have hands-on, so that definitely was one. And then, being part of this global community and thinking, ‘Oh, I’m from the Valley, I shouldn’t be part of this.’ I think that there needs to be more sense of pride to who we are and just understanding that we are in our own community, like, a self-brewed, different type of people. We should be proud of that. We shouldn’t shy down from opportunities just because of that.”

What is the most memorable moment of your career? “I worked on a program with the Mission Economic Development Center, Sullivan Center and Border Kids Code and we submitted for the Bright Spots for Educational Excellence for Hispanics and we got recognized by the White House. So, that was a little surreal and I didn’t even think they would pay attention, so that was kind of cool.”

What are your motivations that keep you pushing forward? “I’m going to have to say, as cliché as it might sound, it’s probably my mom. When we moved over here, and this is something I always share with my students, I was never taught how to be an American. I think I was taught that I was here to get educated. And so, as an older, now contributing factor to the community, like I’ve learned what a school board is now, you know what I mean? I never understood those structures and those systems and now when I reflect on it, you know, my mom and dad came over here with one laser focus and this vision and that was to get their kids educated. So I attribute a lot of that to them, they started this whole story.”

What’s next, careerwise? “Definitely putting the Valley on the map, in terms of just global awareness. We live right next to the river and we are caged in by Border Patrol. We’ve created this Tex-Mex new way of living and I think we should expose that and we should bring resources that the rest of the country has back to our community but do it in a very community-based effort. Really, I just want to make a name for the people out here and make it a movement.”

What advice do you have for anyone pursuing your degree? “Own the fact that you belong. They are in here for a reason and stop questioning whether you can make it or not. I think that you should just own the fact that you are who you are and push from that. Accept your place and own it and just grow from it. Grow yourself, your intellectual abilities, your interests and your knowledge, and on your way up, just grab someone with you and take them with you.”

–Compiled by Brenda Garza

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