Alvizo inspires others with her dedication

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In her 15th year with the school district, Maria Alvizo is in her third year serving in one of the high school’s most crucial positions, attendance clerk. (Dana Delgado Photo)

By Dana Delgado

In many ways, Maria Alvizo is the face of Liberty Hill High School – professional, committed to the success of every student, and unwavering in her dedication.

In her 15th year with the school district, Alvizo is in her third year serving in one of the high school’s most crucial positions — attendance clerk. As the high school’s attendance clerk, she has the responsibility of insuring that students are in compliance with the state’s compulsory attendance laws. She also has to be precise since state and federal dollars are tied to attendance figures.

“I like the office environment and helping people,” she said. “When I was a little girl, I dreamed of working in office administration.”

Her position places her in constant contact with students, parents, teachers and administrators. She is the first person you see when you enter the high school building through the main entrance. With an office on the immediate left, behind some glass sliding windows, Alvizo, in her characteristic manner, warmly acknowledges everyone.

“She’s amazing,” said Kathy Gay, junior and senior counselor. “Mrs. Alvizo is careful, diligent, and thorough in her work. Our students know that Mrs. Alvizo is going to be on them if they have attendance issues! We are so glad to have her assistance and she is a valuable member of the administrative staff and is liked by all.”

Her vital role in Liberty Hill, however, is a far cry from her childhood years in Acuna, Mexico, just across the Rio Grande from Del Rio, Texas. She grew up with five older brothers and her mother in what she describes as a “good life” in the heart of the border town. Her father died when she was 12 forcing her mother to shoulder the responsibility of supporting the family.

“My mother worked anywhere she could find work,” she said. “From my mom, I learned to work hard and never give up.”

It also fostered Alvizo’s dream for a better life.

After marrying the love of her life, she patiently waited in Acuna with two young children until she was able to follow her husband to Liberty Hill where he had been working.

“It was very different and far away from home,” she said.

Alvizo also couldn’t speak English so that posed a lot of challenges for her.

“My kids needed help with homework and I couldn’t communicate with the doctors when they were sick,” she remembers. “Fortunately, my husband, Luz, helped a lot and the kids learned fast; although, I didn’t want them to speak English at home at first because I was afraid they were going to forget their Spanish.”

She’s deeply thankful to Mrs. Hernandez and Trudy Hawthorne of the school district’s English as a Second Language (ESL) Program, who encouraged and helped her children.

To set an example for her kids of working hard and to act on her dream, Alvizo sought employment with the school district. She was hired as a cafeteria substitute with Child Nutrition Services and worked at various school cafeterias for a while before administrators acknowledged her work ethic and offered her a full-time position as a custodian at the high school. Before long, she was promoted to supervisor with the custodial staff.

“I trained other custodians and made some good friends,” she said. “I’m a hard-working person and like to keep busy.”

For Alvizo, keeping busy has meant learning new things and she just knew there was a lot more for her to learn and a dream to fulfill. By this time, she had approached Kathy Gay, a counselor who had just joined the staff and who over time, would become a confidant, mentor and close friend to the woman with high aspirations.

“Maria started coming to my office asking questions about how to get her GED,” recalls Gay. “She was really just starting to learn English, but she was determined to learn the language and get her GED.”

Undeterred and despite being a wife and mother and working full-time, Alvizo obtained her GED after several years of study. Her interests and attention then turned to Austin Community College (ACC) to hopefully earn a degree.

“Not only did she get an Associate’s Degree from ACC, she was inducted into the ACC Honor Society for her grades and she completed her degree quickly and efficiently,” said Gay. “She is an inspiration to all! She is such a hard worker; she’s fun and friendly; and she advocates for herself. Maria, in spite of the language barrier and other obstacles, never once wavered in her desire to complete her educational goals and move forward to a career.”

While having developed a keen interest in technology from taking classes at ACC, she’s also giving thought to earning a bachelor’s degree.

“I can’t believe it!” Alvizo beamed with pride. “I’m so lucky with all the people around me who have helped me. It’s not been easy, but it’s not impossible. If I can do it, anyone can.”

Although very engaged with her work, her family is always in her thoughts. Her children, all LHHS graduates, are now grown and pursuing their own dreams and careers.

Her oldest son, Hector, is in his 10th year with the US Army and stationed at Fort Hood, while her daughter Cynthia earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas and is working with an insurance company in San Antonio. Zenia, the youngest, is attending Texas Tech University.

“I’m very proud of my kids and always encourage them to get a good education,” she said.

Mrs. Alvizo, however, doesn’t limit her family to her children, husband and her grandson Gregorio.

“LHISD is part of my family, she said. “I’ve known them for a long time and spent a lot of time with them. They are so friendly and helpful.”

She also includes the parents and students with whom she comes in contact as attendance clerk, especially those whose first language is not English.

“I know exactly how they feel,” Alvizo said. “I was there; I’ve had those problems in not knowing the language. Once they meet me, they know things are going to be better.”

While Alvizo considers herself lucky to have her position, to be with the Liberty Hill Independent School District, and to have achieved so much; perhaps, it is the community that is fortunate to have such an inspirational, hardworking, and caring person who is looking after the interests of its children.

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