Program Celebrates Careers, Education

By Daniel Perez

UTEP News Service

The lessons that Jennifer Tabullo Valencia and her mother learned as members of one of the first cohorts in The University of Texas at El Paso’s Mother-Daughter/Father-Son Program still ring true today. The difference is that Valencia is the one pushing others to dream big and believe in themselves.

Valencia, a product of El Paso’s Lower Valley, said her participation in the UTEP program that promotes higher education among sixth-grade students strengthened her resolve to attend college and pursue her dream to become an engineer.Jennifer Tabullo Valencia, left, a participant in one of the first Mother-Daughter/Father-Son cohorts at UTEP, poses with College of Education Dean Josefina Tinajero, Ed.D., during the program's 25th anniversary Career Day. Josh Garcia / UTEP News ServiceJennifer Tabullo Valencia, left, a participant in one of the first Mother-Daughter/Father-Son cohorts at UTEP, poses with College of Education Dean Josefina Tinajero, Ed.D., during the program's 25th anniversary Career Day. Josh Garcia / UTEP News Service

Today, the member of the 1988 cohort has put her career in chemical engineering on hold to raise a family, but she continues to promote the ideals of the Mother-Daughter/Father-Son (MDFS) program as a board member of the Houston chapter of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers.

She visits schools in low-income neighborhoods and works with students on papers and projects. At the same time, she builds their self-esteem and plants seeds of a future in college and as a professional.

Valencia added that the MDFS program also deepened her relationship with her mother, Josefina Tabullo, because it gave them a shared experience and an opportunity to bond. The daughter said her mother, who worked for El Paso Water Utilities, continues to use MDFS tips to help other generations within her extended family.  

“Some don’t find the support they need at home,” said Valencia, who enrolled at New Mexico State University and earned her degree in 2000. “It’s important that they get the message from people who look like them.”

Valencia, the first in her family to attend college, was among the speakers at the special 25th anniversary MDFS Program Career Day March 24 at The University of Texas at El Paso. More than 450 El Paso sixth-grade students and their parents attended and learned about job options and the role education plays in achieving professional goals.

During the day, participants attended workshops on campus with more than 30 professionals, including some UTEP alumni, who shared stories about their lives and what it took to achieve a successful career.

Josefina V. “Josie” Tinajero, Ed.D., dean of the University’s College of Education, welcomed the students and their parents. She initiated the program during the 1986-87 school year to get youth in the Paso del Norte region to consider a college education followed by a good-paying professional career. In the process, the program built the self-esteem of the students and increased parental participation and commitment.

“I am totally committed to the work that we do and have seen firsthand the positive impact that the program has had in the lives of numerous girls and their mothers and boys and their dads,” Tinajero said.

The program started modestly with 32 girls, but increased to 175 by the second year. It began to accept boys in 1994 and today, it averages about 250 students per cohort, said Maria “Noni” Silva, MDFS program coordinator.

More than 5,000 students have participated in the program through the years. The selection criteria includes a recommendation from their teacher by the end of fifth grade, no college attendees in their immediate families, and a promise to attend all sessions with a parent and to be part of a community service project at their schools, Silva said.

Information: 915-747-5649 or http://academics.utep.edu/motherdaughter