Story and photo by Russ Dilday
It’s a surprisingly mild day for Amarillo in early September. The windows are open in Sandy Carrasco’s apartment at Buckner Family Place, letting in a mild breeze and the sounds of the Panhandle city. Even though she’s completed the program, she’s living at Family Place until her new home is renovated.
Sandy leans patiently across her kitchen table to explain a math problem to her son, Sabre, a fourth-grade student in Tulia, Texas. I watch the exchange with a grin. He might not realize – or appreciate – that he has a tremendous advantage over the rest of his classmates. Besides having the most awesome name in class, his mom is the new fourth grade math teacher in Tulia.
By all Buckner measures, Sandy is a success. After two years, she’s just completed the Family Place program, a master’s degree in teaching from West Texas A&M University in Canyon and is newly employed, a benchmark for most Family Place participants.
But just as important, Sandy is a success in her own eyes. Let’s pick up the conversation from there:
Russ: You seem to be in a great place in life right now. What has Family Place done for you and Sabre?
Sandy: The greatest thing Family Place has done for me is given me a safe place to be able to get my education and not have to worry about all the other things around life and being a single parent and trying to make it, working and doing everything I need to make sure that my son is taken care of. The types of services Family Place provides is lowered rent; they help us with school supplies for our kids; they help us with clothes for our kids when we need it; and, if we are in need of something around our house and we need help with anything, they help us. We’ve done Bible study groups. Different churches have come in and helped us. And (program director) Susana Guevara, and Dianne Samaniego before her, helped those people get in touch with us and be able to do things like that with us. She’s also helped me be more able to reach out more to other people, become social, more interactive with the community. I’m really, really appreciative.
Russ: What brought you to Family Place?
Sandy: The main reason I came to Family Place is because I needed a place to live while I was getting my education. When I first came here, I had been living in Portales (New Mexico). I had family in Portales, my mother, but I had finished my bachelor’s and I wanted to go for my master’s in teaching. School has always been something that’s been really important to me, and nobody in my family has ever gone to college, ever finished college, ever thought about it because it was just out of their reach. I’m the first person in my family to go to college and get through it. Having an education is really great, especially with me being a single mom. I need that ability to get an income that will be able to support us for the rest of our lives.
Russ: You mentioned being a single mom. What is the greatest need a single mom has that Family Place answers?
Sandy: Community. I would say community is probably the most important thing Buckner has provided for us, a place for us to stay and be safe and have other single moms around us to help us. And if we need advice or if we just even need a cup of sugar, we can go next door. Susana has been really great at helping us and giving us resources for different things if we need help with being a single mom.
Russ: Ten years from now, looking back at Family Place, what will you remember the most?
Sandy: I think I’ll remember the people the most because they’ve been the most influential. I haven’t really had much support my entire life, and Buckner has given me a lot of support spiritually, emotionally. They’ve helped us. I mean, we moved in and we didn’t have very much at all.
Russ: What is life going to look like for you because of Family Place?
Sandy: Buckner has given me the ability to have a brighter future. It’s given me the ability to provide for my son for as long as I need to. I don’t have to worry about if I’m going to have a job or where I’m going to have a job. I’ve got my education. Buckner has given me a brighter future.
Russ: What part did Sabre play in all of this – reaching out, striving for more?
Sandy: My son has been the influential part of my life for why I’ve strived so hard to become more. I want him to know education is very important and to know he can do more with his life with an education. He’s been a really big encouragement to me. He’s always there for me whenever I’m having a hard time, saying, “Mom, you need help? I can help you.” If I’m having a hard time at school, if I’ve got a lot of homework, he’s always there to help around the house and he’s been great.
Russ: You’re in your second week at school at your new teaching job. What does it feel like to be a teacher?
Sandy: It feels wonderful to know I have my education, my master’s degree, to know I have a teaching job, to know I am where I’ve always wanted to be in my life. I developed a passion for teaching because I was tutoring at a recreation center in Portales for low-income students, and a lot of those students didn’t have their moms at home to help them because they were working all the time. And just being able to see their faces whenever I was able to help them and they understood it, and they were like, “Yes,” and then they brought their work to me the next day and they’re like, “I made a 100!”
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