Sarai Avila Marks’ first encounter with higher education was when she was a small
child accompanying her mother Rosa to the University of Texas Permian Basin (UTPB).
“My father worked, so my mother took my three siblings and me to classes with her,”
Marks recalled. “She would tell us to sit quietly and do our homework or read until
she got out of class. I think that experience taught all of us the importance of
education and the desire to get a degree.”
Marks explained that her parents were both born in Mexico. Her mother immigrated
to the United States as a child and graduated from Midland High School in 1990. Her
father immigrated as an adult.
Before transferring to UTPB, her mother Rosa received an associate degree from Midland
College (MC) in 1993. Now, all four of Rosa’s children and various nieces and nephews
also have credentials from MC. Sarai’s oldest sister Adriana went through MC’s vocational
nursing program. Then, there’s Adrian who is a graduate of the Air Conditioning,
Heating & Refrigeration Technology Program and owns his own HVAC company. Sarai is
the third child, and youngest sister Karina has an Associate of Science degree from
MC and is employed as a cosmetologist.
“It all started with mom,” Marks said. “Her ambition and love of education has been
an inspiration for the entire family.
My mom also stressed the importance of reading. As children we went to the downtown
library a lot! We each had to choose books to read. When we were too young to read
the books ourselves, she would find time out of her busy schedule to read to us. And,
then once we learned to read, she always made sure we were never without a book.
“She also taught us the value of a dollar and how to save. It was understood from
an early age that we would go to Midland College in order to save money and take advantage
of the many scholarships the college offers. I remember her telling us, ‘Get good
grades, and the scholarships will come.’
“My parents ran a family business, Super Pollo USA, on Florida & Terrell streets in
Midland for a long time. My mother earned both bachelor’s and master’s degrees from
UTPB and became a bilingual elementary school teacher for Midland ISD. She resigned
from the MISD Bilingual department after also having worked 21 years as a school teacher.
My father retired as a welder. However, retirement doesn’t mean that my parents
stopped working. They now manage their own businesses. Besides instilling in their
four children a desire to learn, they also gave us a strong work ethic.”
Sarai Avila Marks currently works as the charge nurse at a surgery center in Midland.
Her workday starts at 5:45 a.m., and when she finishes at 4:00 p.m., it’s time to
assume her other responsibilities as “mom” to her three boys, all under the age of
6. Then, in the evening and on her days off, she becomes a student as she works to
complete a Doctorate of Nursing Practice degree from Texas Tech University Health
“It’s never easy, she said. “When I complain to my mom about working and going to
school with three children, she just smiles and says, ‘I had four children, and I
did it; you only have three. Stop complaining!’”
Marks explained that when she entered Midland College in 2013 after graduating from
Legacy High School, she knew she wanted to pursue something in the medical field but
wasn’t exactly sure what that would be.
“When I first started college, I thought I would become a Physician’s Assistant,”
she said. “I took a lot of science courses. I had my first son Luis R. Ortíz in
2014 during final exam week. My professors were great and very understanding. I
specifically recall Biology professors, Marlana Mertens, Amelia Belizaire, and Tomás
Hernandez. Mr. Hernandez made alterations in my lab assignments the semester that
I was pregnant because dissecting rats made me extremely nauseous. All my professors
were like that. They were accommodating but still held me accountable, and I am truly
grateful for them”.
Marks’ supplanted the cost of her Midland College tuition with the Legacy Scholarship.
When she graduated in 2015, Abell-Hanger Foundation awarded her a transfer scholarship,
and she stayed in Midland taking advantage of Sul Ross State University (SRSU) classes
held on the Midland College main campus. She graduated from SRSU in 2016 with a Bachelor
of Science degree majoring in Biology and minoring in Chemistry. Shortly after graduating,
she had a second son, Deciderio Ortíz. Then, she entered Texas Tech University Health
Sciences Center’s (TTUHSC) School of Nursing and completed the Second-Degree Bachelor
of Science in Nursing (BSN) accelerated program.
“It’s a great program,” Marks explained. “It allows people with a bachelor’s degree
to complete a nursing degree in just a year. However, had I known at the beginning
that my true calling was nursing, I would have gone through MC’s nursing program and
tjen obtained my BSN through TTUHSC. I ended up taking the long way to becoming a
Marks also recalled the personal turmoil in her life at the time.
“My boys were 3 and 1, and I was a single mother during nursing school,” she said.
“My first husband was not supportive, and it was hard. However, getting an education
was always a priority for me. It was not easy, but anything is possible if you truly
believe and work hard for it.”
Fortunately for Marks, her second husband Riaaz is extremely supportive of her decision
to continue her studies toward a doctorate degree. The couple have been married for
almost two years. Riaaz is a South African native and has been in the United States
for three years. He is a contract fabricator/welder. Six months ago, Sarai gave
birth to her third son, named Riaaz after his father.
“My husband is wonderful!” Sarai exclaimed. “Since I have to be at work early in
the morning, he gets the boys up and gets them to school and daycare. The boys are
a handful—big personalities in little bodies!”
Just like her parents did when she was a child, Sarai stresses that her children speak
Spanish at home and English at school.
“Being bilingual has opened a lot of doors for me, and I tell my children that it
will for them, as well,” she said. “Speaking Spanish at home is also helping my husband
Riaaz to learn the language, even though he speaks two other languages. He comes
from a multi-cultural family—his father is South African, and his mother is Malaysian.
We think it’s important that our children learn and speak more than one language
and that they have an understanding of their ancestral cultures.”
Marks said that even though she is a proud nurse, her first job is being a mom and
“Seeing my children happy makes me happy,” she said.
The family enjoys camping, swimming, and participating in their church. Sarai also
enjoys recreational soccer and horseback riding.
Before working for her current employer Sarai Avila Marks was employed at Midland
Memorial Hospital in the Emergency Department for approximately 18 months and then
the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit for 5 months. She said that those responsibilities
helped to give her experience and exposure to various types of nursing care. She
also became a Spanish certified nurse interpreter. Once she receives her doctorate
degree, her career goal is to go into family care or community health as a nurse practitioner.