Nurse learned importance of education and hard work from immigrant parents

Nurse learned importance of education and hard work from immigrant parentsNovember 18, 2021

The image to use for this article. Listing image managed through RSS tab. Sarai Avila marks

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 Sciences Center.    

“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 nurse.”

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 wife.  

“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.

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