When Geneva Duarte-Diaz enrolled in Midland College in 1991 at the age of 20, she
had no idea about college or how to pay for college. She just knew that she needed
a college education in order to make a better life for herself and her family. Today,
Duarte-Diaz, a first-generation-to-college student, has several certificates, an associate
degree and a bachelor’s degree from Midland College. She helps high school students
discover pathways to higher education.
Duarte-Diaz was raised by her grandparents in Ft. Stockton, TX, and while she was
in high school, she worked in the Radiology department at Pecos County Medical Hospital
(PCMH). She took some dual credit courses through Midland College and enjoyed learning.
However, she didn’t go straight to college from high school. When Duarte-Diaz graduated
from Fort Stockton High School in 1989, she was already married and had a daughter.
Her college plans were put on hold while her husband attended college at Texas State
Technical College in Waco, TX.
“In 1991, we relocated to Midland, and I had an opportunity to enroll at Midland College,”
Duarte-Diaz explained. “Having worked in the Radiology department at PCMH, I was
excited when I was accepted into Midland College’s Radiology program. However, we
didn’t have the funds to pay tuition and fees, and I knew nothing about applying for
financial aid and scholarships. So, unfortunately, I wasn’t able to continue my studies.”
By 1995, Duarte-Diaz and her husband had divorced, and she was now a single mother
of two daughters. In order to make ends meet, she worked full-time and also at various
part-time jobs simultaneously in both Midland and Fort Stockton. Then, in 1999, she
obtained employment with Pecos County Community Action Agency (PCCAA) Head Start in
“This job was such a blessing,” she said. “I found that I had a passion for teaching.
I started taking Child Care and Development courses at Midland College in the evenings.
This was before online courses, and Child Care and Development was not offered at
Midland College’s Ft. Stockton campus. So, several of us from Ft. Stockton would
drive to Midland immediately after work two or three days a week and take classes.
I began as a substitute pre-k teacher and because of attaining several certificates
from Midland College along the way, I was promoted to a co-teacher, then teacher and
In 2005, Duarte-Diaz obtained an Associate of Applied Science degree in Child Care
and Development with director credentials from Midland College. She continued her
role as coordinator at PCCAA Head Start until 2007. For the next seven years, she
held various positions as a female jailer and child care director.
“In 2014, I moved back to Midland in order to be close to my daughters and grandchildren,”
Duarte Diaz said. “I started working as an administrative assistant for the Midland
College Aviation Maintenance program. I was looking forward to being able to help
my daughter with her children and enjoy being a grandmother.”
However, just one month after she began working at Midland College—in July 2014—a
car going the wrong way on a Loop 250 exit ramp hit Duarte-Diaz’s car while she was
driving with her two grandchildren. Duarte-Diaz suffered a broken heel and two broken
arms, and her 8-year-old granddaughter suffered multiple internal injuries. The driver
of the other car was killed.
“I was in a wheelchair for six months, and my granddaughter had to have multiple surgeries,”
Duarte-Diaz explained. “I went back to work almost immediately, but my daughter had
to drive me to and from work. Instead of helping her with the children like I had
planned, she ended up taking care of me. The instructors in the Aviation Maintenance
program were so kind. They made sure I had lunch everyday and helped me with tasks
like going to the copy machine. I was disabled for a long time.”
Both Duarte-Diaz and her granddaughter made full recoveries, but she said that she
feels especially remorsefully for the family of the other driver who was killed. In
fact, each year on the anniversary of the wreck, she goes to Marathon, TX to visit
the grave of the other driver.
After she recovered, Duarte-Diaz was encouraged by her youngest daughter to continue
“My daughter had obtained her bachelor’s degree through the Sul Ross program on the
Midland College campus,” Duarte-Diaz explained. “She inspired me to also work toward
a bachelor’s degree.”
In 2018, Duarte-Diaz graduated from Midland College with a Bachelor’s of Applied Technology
degree in Organizational Management. She then moved back to Ft. Stockton and is currently
employed by Sul Ross State University as an outreach coordinator for the university’s
Texas Project Reach GEAR UP program.
“I have the privilege of working at Ft. Stockton High School with 167 students who
are in the graduating class of 2024,” she said.
Through GEAR UP, Duarte-Diaz provides services for students via academic camps, customized
tutoring, scholarship/FAFSA assistance, education field trips and mentoring/career
shadowing. She also presents material to the students that will prepare them not
only for college, but also for life, such as financial literacy, health and wellness.
“I love to encourage everyone, but especially my students to set goals and go to college,”
she stated. “I tell them to take advantage of dual credit courses at Midland College’s
campus in Ft. Stockton. It is the best possible way to get started taking college
courses. I encourage them to consider Midland College, Sul Ross and other colleges
and universities. Having these educational institutions so close to home is amazing.
Knowing that I can be someone in their lives that helps them discover and attain
their goals and dreams keeps me loving what I do.”
Duarte-Diaz attributes her passion for education to her experiences in life and past
“I share my stories of being raised by my grandparents as a first-generation college
student, my changes in degree plans and life’s obstacles,” she said. “It’s important
for students to know that we all have struggles that can be overcome.”
This past March, Duarte-Diaz continued her efforts to help Ft. Stockton citizens obtain
higher education through her role as the secretary for the Williams Regional Technical
Training Center’s (Midland College’s branch campus in Ft. Stockton) Alumni Association.
“The mission of the Alumni Association is to reconnect Midland College alumni and
build strong, engaging relationships with former and current students, employees and
retirees,” she explained. “The association also helps support the Scholars’ Dollars
Scholarship in Ft. Stockton, which assists dual credit high school students, college
students and technical training students who are residents of Pecos County with their
financial education needs.
“I love working with both GEAR UP and the Alumni Association because it is a way for
me to ‘pay it forward.’ I started college not knowing how to obtain financial assistance.
Thankfully, while I was working on my bachelor’s degree, I received financial assistance
through the Marion and Jan Jones Scholarship at Midland College. Without that, I
don’t think I could have afforded to continue my education.”
Duarte-Diaz has established two scholarships herself. The 2024 Donavyn D. Vaughn
Scholarship is in memory of a GEAR UP student who passed away, and is specifically
for students in the GEAR UP program. She also established the Duarte-Diaz Scholarship
in memory of her grandparents. She said that her motto is “Helping students believe
they CAN achieve success to their fullest potential.”
“Everyone has a different journey in life,” she said. “It is never too late to attend
college, and having a supportive network of family, friends, teachers and community
is very important. It certainly gave me strength and the determination to succeed.
The Williams Regional Technical Training Center and the main Midland College campus
will forever be near and dear to my heart. Those were the places where I obtained
the tools for success.”