Texas Parents recognizes students’ battles with adversity

Lisa Nhan

Seniors Dana Le and Maria Suarez-Magana received the Mike Wacker Award from Texas Parents earlier this month as a reward for their positive mindsets during times of hardships in college.

Texas Parents director Susie Smith said the award, which started in 1985, is only given out when the committee feels a student’s story has “embodied the spirit of the award.” Named after former UT basketball player Mike Wacker, the award goes to a student for persevering through adversity.

“In my case, adversity has meant a fight you’re about to face,” said Le, a finance senior. “You have to decide what creates your character in those moments.”

Throughout college, Le said she has been in the hospital a number of times because of multiple reasons, such as a moped accident and recurring health problems. In her sophomore year, she suffered a concussion during a car accident, which she said led to problems with her cognitive ability.

With a lack of support from her estranged family, Le said she learned to take care of herself from a young age.

Le said the friendships she’s formed at UT have made her journey a positive one, despite the hardships. 

“I’ve made a UT family here,” Le said. “Since I didn’t have a great support system at home, (it) has really redefined what support means to me.”

For Suarez-Magana, a sociology senior, growing up with her mom and brothers taught her to be independent and how to support those around her. For a period of time, she was homeless in high school but knew she had to keep persevering. Throughout college, she’s had to pay for everything independently while trying to support her family
back home.

“I have my mom and brothers who need me,” Suarez-Magana said. “I can’t quit. They’re in the back of my mind. If something is hard, I remember that if I quit now, then I can’t help them.”

Cecilia Lopez Cardenas, Suarez-Magana’s mentor through Horns Helping Horns, said she nominated Suarez-Magana because her work ethic and dedication to serve others stood out to her.

“I wanted her to know that everything she’s gone through has not been in vain,” said Lopez Cardenas, assistant director of the Division of Recreational Sports. “I hope through this award she knows how much of an impact she’s had on all of us, just by knowing her and working with her.”

Both recipients were honored on April 7 at an awards luncheon.