Commencement Close-Up: Katrina evacuee from Houston Itza Carbajal finds success at UTSA through local and international nonprofit work
(Dec. 20, 2012) -- "Open up your horizons and experience all the diversity the San Antonio area has to offer." That's the advice 22-year-old College of Liberal and Fine Arts graduate Itza Carbajal would offer to future UTSA students.
"Don't just stick to the Main Campus -- try the Downtown Campus, Boerne, Fredericksburg, New Braunfels and the surrounding communities as well," she said.
Prospective students would be wise to take her advice. Though she is young, Carbajal already has visited four countries, either studying abroad or doing nonprofit work to help the less fortunate.
A New Orleans native of Honduran descent, she came to UTSA to pursue a double major in history and English after relocating to Houston following the devastation from Hurricane Katrina.
"It was supposed to be a temporary situation, so we left in a caravan with my mom's friends and decided we would all help each other get back on our feet," said Carbajal. "My mom saw the value in the educational resources there, so we decided to stay there so I could finish my education."
After graduating and considering several out-of-state schools, she decided to attend UTSA because it was in an urban area, and because she thought it would be best for her to succeed in her studies.
During her junior year, Carbajal participated in a study-abroad program in Italy and took advantage of the rail transportation system, visiting 50 cities over a five-month period.
"I enjoy the experiences of traveling, so I would finish class Thursday night, then come back Monday morning before my first class would start," said Carbajal. "I figured it would be a waste if I did not expose myself to the cultures of the other nearby cities while I had the opportunity."
While studying overseas, Carbajal worked for a nonprofit co-op and visited neighboring European countries to assist the downtrodden. Nonprofit work has always been in her blood. Throughout her life, she traveled back to Honduras annually to visit relatives and work with orphan children.
"I was basically a big sister to 30 children who did not have parents, were removed from abusive homes or lived among the homeless," said Carbajal. "A lot of it was just talking and listening to them, since many were neglected and came from homes that did not have loving or understanding environments."
Currently, Carbajal works at the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center in San Antonio, where she spearheads several nonprofit projects.
"Sometimes I am organizing, other times I am on the streets circulating petitions. Then, there are times when I am on the phone contacting the elderly who may not have access to the Internet and are not aware of issues taking place in their communities," she said.
After graduation, she plans to take a year off before pursuing graduate and doctoral degree studies in nonprofit management. Her plans include earning a law degree.
Ben Olguin, Honors College assistant director of national fellowships and scholarships and associate professor of English, nominated Carbajal for a Soros Fellowship. The fellowship helps children of immigrants pay for graduate school.
"Ms. Carbajal is a once-in-a-lifetime student who has managed to make her individual education resonate far beyond her own life," said Olguin. "She cares in a smart way, which has led her to identify the next steps she needs to undertake to continue serving humanity, one locality at a time."
The announcement of the recipients of the Soros fellowships will come in January.
Emerging artists work in the full range of traditional methods and materials as well as in interdisciplinary and new media. Themes range from social and cultural critique to investigations that are challenging and exquisite explorations in creative form and image.UTSA Art Gallery, Arts Building, Main Campus
Juan Vallejo’s art conveys his experience as a childhood migrant worker. Opening reception: Thurs, Dec. 5, 6–9 p.m. Free and open to the public.UTSA Terminal 136, Blue Star Arts Complex, 136 Blue St., San Antonio
Portions of Cook Road will be closed for construction related to the new Student Success Center project and Americans with Disabilities Act sidewalk upgrades.Cook Road, Main Campus
Out of the violence comes a silence, then a song. Thus begins an extraordinary night of camaraderie, music and peace. A remarkable true experience, told in the words and songs of the men who lived it. UTSA partners with The Public Theater for this event. Contact the theater at (210) 458-3288 for scheduling requests.Buena Vista Theater, Downtown Campus
Forty-six modular units will be delivered to Main Campus as part of the new Student Success Center project. The units will enter campus at Brennan Avenue and will travel to their final destination, south of the North Paseo Building and Graduate School and Research Building via Tobin Avenue, Bauerle Road and Devine Avenue.Brennan Avenue, Tobin Avenue, Bauerle Road, Devine Avenue, Main Campus
Enjoy two classic holiday performances. Children’s Ballet of San Antonio will present two of The Nutcracker. Our Lady of Guadalupe Church will perform a traditional Pastorela play, a morality tale about shepherds going to Bethlehem and the snares the devil uses to dissuade them. Performances are included with regular ITC admission.UTSA Institute of Texan Cultures, 801 E. César E. Chavez Blvd., San Antonio
Celebrating graduating students from the College of Engineering and the College of Liberal and Fine Arts. Guest speaker: Susan Pape '86, chairman of the San Antonio Express-News.Alamodome, 100 Montana St., San Antonio