The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

TR speech preaches patience in tackling life’s adversities

By Amy Estrada/reporter

A man about 30 years old and dressed in a black-tailored suit, crimson tie and shiny shoes captured the attention of about 250 TCC faculty and students when he told them he was once homeless.

Raul Magdaleno, associate director of diversity and outreach at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, spoke to a full house Oct. 6 on TR Campus about the importance of embracing success.

Upon high school graduation, he said a teacher told him college wasn’t for him. However, he graduated valedictorian from a local community college and earned a full scholarship to SMU.

Doug Peak, SE director of student services, told students that he met Magdaleno about four years ago and was blown away by Magdaleno’s ability to engage students.

“His personality and charisma are electrifying,” Peak said. “Students, it’s about you tonight.”

Magdaleno grabbed a microphone and said that the evening was about a leader under construction as he began telling his long, hard journey to success.

Although he was born in Mexico City, his family soon headed to Dallas, where his father died in prison and his mother was left to raise 10 children on her own.

At 6 years old, Magdaleno said, he watched all of his brothers go to prison.

By the time he was 8 years old, all of his sisters had dropped out of high school and left home.

He said he felt labels were put on him about the person he was and who he would become.

“At 8 years old, I learned how to be an adult overnight,” he said.

Magdaleno said he was angry because he didn’t have anyone, and he couldn’t be a child anymore. He had to start taking care of his disabled sister, Silvia.

When Magdaleno’s mother remarried, she would leave him and Silvia alone for weeks at a time without any food, he said.

Magdaleno said to feed himself and Silvia, he began picking up cans from the trash and getting money for them. Later, he started knocking on doors and asking his neighbors to leave cans on their front porch for him.

Magdaleno said he was making $150 a week by picking up cans.

Soon after, his family was evicted from their home and lived under a bridge where his sister was almost raped.

At that moment, he said he made a promise he was going to build a shelter for battered women.

“You are what you’re waiting for. Become the change you want to see,” he said.

In 1998, Magdaleno became the first to graduate from high school in his family.

Shortly after, he kept his promise — he raised $500,000 for a battered women’s shelter with the help of a friend and later bought a whole block, adding 17 buildings for the shelter.

After a trip to Mexico, where the then 22-year-old tried to create programs to decrease poverty, he enrolled in community college — failing every entry exam into the school.

He never quit.

“Education is the greatest weapon to fight poverty,” he said.

While working a job from 5 p.m. to 4 a.m. and then going to school from 8 a.m. to noon, Magdaleno graduated as valedictorian in 2004.

Within a week, Magdaleno said he received three important phone calls.

First, he was selected as the winner of a Jack Kent Cooke scholarship. Then, he was asked by the White House to serve as a press secretary for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. Third, he received the U.S. Congressional Award for putting in more than 30,000 hours of community service.

Magdaleno used the scholarship money to attend SMU. In October, he was homeless again.

He said for the first time in his long journey, he felt like quitting.

“One day, one of my neighbors came up to me and told me, ‘Mi hijo, don’t give up because your success is my success,’” Magdaleno said.

For the next two years, he lived in the shelter while attending SMU.

“Where you live does not determine who you are,” he said.

He said the happiest day was in 2006 when he walked across the stage and grabbed that piece of paper.

Magdaleno asked the room to repeat after him.

And with a loud roar, the whole room said, “My circumstance does not determine my future.”

Magdaleno now works at SMU where he started the first Office of Diversity and Community Outreach.

Students swarmed around Magdaleno when the speech was over.

They asked for pictures and autographs and told him their stories of hard times. They thanked him for the inspiration to strive for a higher education.

“When life gets tough and asks you to quit, you say …,” Magdaleno said.

The students and faculty responded, “I don’t quit.”

NE student Rosie-Marie Rincon was among those in the audience who said they enjoyed Magdaleno’s presentation.

“There are no words to describe how I feel. I liked how he said there is greatness in everyone even though not everyone can see it,” she said.

Donate to The Collegian

Your donation will support the student journalists of Tarrant County College. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Collegian