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Betsabe Ricardez has been teaching World History and World Geography at Donna North High School for less than a year. Even though the 26-year-old is just getting started, Ricardez will have to put her new job on hold to pursue another professional goal.

Ricardez is seeking a master’s degree in International Education. She applied to three prestigious universities — George Washington University, New York University Steinhardt and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign — and was accepted into all three. Ricardez said she was at home checking emails just after midnight one night when she received her first reply. It was from her initial choice.

“I remember the day because it was about 12:15 a.m. and my parents were already asleep,” Ricardez said. “I was in my room reading over my emails and I see that I had an admission email from George Washington University. I was so nervous to open the email. I was debating whether to wait until the next day but I figured I’d better open it now. That way if it was something unexpected, I would have the day to process it. So, I opened it and the first word that I read was ‘Congratulations.’ I yelled and ran to my parents’ room to tell them the exciting news.”

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Ricardez admits the application process was intense, but she never gave up. “It was a rigorous process,” she said. “I’m not going to say that I had all the confidence in the world because I didn’t. I was out of college for about three years. I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to write the best essays and the best applications. I doubted my abilities and my strengths. I would tell my parents that I was afraid I wasn’t going to get accepted, but as always they reassured me everything was going to be fine.”

Everything turned out to be fine. Ricardez is still in awe. “It kind of feels like when you’re running a race,” Ricardez said. “There’s a ribbon out in front of you and you’re the first one to cross and the ribbon is holding you back but then you get to push past it. It’s like a breakthrough. It’s something that I felt was difficult to achieve but now that I did it, I can go the distance. I can do a lot more than this.”

The 2009 Donna High School graduate said her high school teachers and coaches played a big role in shaping her future. She credits them in part to her success in attaining the prestigious Bill Gates Millennium Scholarship. She was one of three DHS students to receive the award in Texas.  “I looked up to my teachers and athletic coaches,” Ricardez said. “I saw them as examples. They were always motivating and encouraging me. I felt that I was able to learn so much because I listened. If you listen and do what your teachers tell you, you can make it far.”

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Ricardez began her journey right out of high school. In the summers, she worked at DISD’s English Language Development Academy tutoring English as a Second Language learners. In the fall and spring, she attended The University of Texas at Austin. Four years later in 2013, she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in International Relations and Global Studies with a focus on International Security and a minor in Latin American Studies. From there, she joined the Peace Corps which took her to Indonesia where she taught high school students to speak English for two years.

“It was the most challenging time of my life and I learned a lot trying to conform to other people’s lifestyles but keeping my own identity.” Ricardez said.

Ricardez returned home in 2016 and was offered a teaching job at DNHS where she is today. If there is something she would want her students to learn from her is for them to believe in themselves and strive for success.

“I would tell them that it’s OK to look back to your roots. Use the experiences of your parents, relatives, teachers and people who are important to you. They will encourage and motivate you. Let that be your thrust forward. You may believe that the only way you can achieve success is through one particular path but it’s not always like that. You will have your downfalls and your doubts but in the end, it’s going to matter how much you want to be successful. How much do you want to be on the top of that mountain? That’s what I would tell them.”

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