Mario Silva learned very early in life what hard work and sacrifice can yield.
"Growing up, I had people around me who always wanted me to push myself as hard as I could," he says. "The older I got, the more I realized what my parents sacrificed, and the more I feel I need to keep moving forward to make everything they did for me worth it."
Mario's parents immigrated from El Salvador and settled in a south Dallas trailer park to raise their family. His mom stayed home with Mario and his three siblings while his father worked 60-plus hours a week. Through hard work and dedication, the family was able to move into a home in Irving.
This made a huge impression on Mario, who remembers how hard it was living paycheck-to-paycheck. As a senior in high school, he started working every afternoon at an animal clinic. Upon graduation, he upped his hours to 35 a week while also attending college full-time. Mario has paid for his entire college education on his own, minus a few scholarships. He hasn't taken out any student loans.
"Some days were very stressful, but I wanted to do that so I wouldn't have to put more pressure on mom and dad," he says.
Mario is the second in his family to attend college, after his older brother Kevin, who also attended UNT and majored in physics. Mario knew UNT had a solid science program, and he also was drawn by the Teach North Texas program. He'd never thought about being a teacher; but after visiting with TNT recruiters, he felt the opportunity to graduate with a bachelor's degree and a teaching certificate was too good to pass up.
He may have stumbled into the program, but he certainly hasn't regretted it.
"Seeing a smile on my students' faces alone makes all the hardship and obstacles worth it," Mario says. "I've learned through being in the classroom as a teacher that if they're succeeding, I'm succeeding, and that's a big motivator for me to keep doing what I'm doing."
Mario is considering a master's degree in either chemistry or education to further advance his career. But for now, he's eager to enter the classroom as a high school chemistry teacher and continue supporting himself and his parents.
He credits UNT for being an accessible and affordable option for people like him to achieve what they want to achieve. He also challenges incoming freshmen to dig deep and reflect on what they're willing to sacrifice to meet their goals.
"Drive is everything in college," Mario says. "If I can do it, there's no reason why they can't as well. It comes down to how bad you want it and what you're willing to do to get it."
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