The prevailing consciousness that I walked away with after talking with Esmeralda Limon, principal of Seale Jr. High School, was that family is the backbone of anything that she does: immediate family; work family; volunteer work family.
The comprehension of the family dynamics and highly regarded value for family is a driving force for most of her accomplishments. As hard as she works and as tough as she may appear to be, she has an understanding that family is what makes life work. She believes that parents provide 90 percent of the learning to a child's success in life.
She was the youngest of nine children and learned about working hard by helping her father and mother. She listened to her mom and dad to learn. As a result she would always endeavor to improve her life.
She said: "I will never forget my neighborhood roots as I strive to better myself."
She is a diminutive, strong and confident woman who will speak her mind but never in an unkind or ugly language. She remembered being oblivious to discrimination during adolescence. She spoke of being expected to stand in the back row of the choir at St. John's Catholic Church because "our place was not to question in those days."
Most of us just accepted that as fact. Esmi, as a 12-year-old child, spoke up. Her argument, made sense and went something like this: "Sister, I cannot see over these tall girls to follow directions and sing. I need to be in the front."
That was a sign that she would usually end up in the front.
Esmi said she worked for H-E-B for 14 years and tried to keep focused on her job. She looked to see how she could make a difference in making changes to improve working conditions or efficiency. She had a yearning for promotions that beckoned her to get a bachelor's degree in order for her to advance at H-E-B.
What happened next gave her a different perspective that would change her views of life and her family. As she prepared to give two-weeks notice at H-E-B, her oldest child, Javier, got sick at age 11. It was a malignant tumor in his left kidney that required them to travel to Houston on July 1 and wait until after July 4 for the needed surgery, which was followed by cancer treatments.
Javier was given 6 to 7 months to live. He was given chemotherapy, which he described as being "like drinking a bottle of…agonizing pain."
Since Javier survived chemotherapy, a 12-month radiation treatment followed. Something that the doctors did not think possible also happened; he survived. Today, he is a successful 26-year-old professional in the business world. H-E-B allowed Esmeralda to take a leave of absence from her job and covered all the medical bills for two years, including the needed surgery.
Mrs. Limon returned to the workforce as a drama teacher for the Robstown Independent School District. She appreciated her family even more now. For 10 years, she was successful teaching and directing one act plays. The icing on her cake was that she was able to teach all four of her children in her drama classes.
She said she was having so much fun that she forgot that she had planned to continue her education. Her children soon reminded her and encouraged her to return to college and follow her dreams.
She completed her masters' degree and principal certification and was hired as assistant principal at Robstown High School. She believes that how we deal with life to overcome obstacles makes the difference. She loves to see students succeed.
"It's all about the kids," she said, smiling. "Life is a tough balancing act and we forget we are all human - we forget that children in school have many hardships that are never directly communicated to the teacher."
She is such an inspiration to many people. Her life is one success story after another. The last time I remember seeing Mrs. Limon, she was teaching drama and sang with our Sunday church choir that I led at the time from St. Anthony's Church. She harmonized with her incredible powerful soprano voice.
Our families have known each others' families for years, but life gets in the way. Our paths crossed in December while I was visiting Robstown High School administrators to set up dialogue with the senior students about immunization.
Achievement seems to be Mrs. Limon's middle name, including singing in the choir, teaching drama, being an administrator and "it's all about family." She is the type of person who will focus and persevere to achieve her goals by working smart. She is a great person to model our lives on and you can find her in this community.
Joe-Santos Medina is a resident of Robstown. Readers may contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.