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Alumna’s LMU Education Prepares Her for Greater Academic Success

Cati de los RiosCati de los Rios ’04 knew she would attend Loyola Marymount University after volunteering for a Special Games event held on the Westchester campus when she was a high school student.

“I didn’t want to leave,” Rios said. “There were hundreds of people doing service, and it was exciting to see the community coming together. I had never heard of LMU before this event, but I knew this was where I wanted to go.”

After graduating LMU, Rios went on to earn a dual master’s degree from Harvard Graduate School of Education, with an emphasis in Urban Secondary Education, and the Harvard Divinity School in Theological Studies, with an emphasis in Liberation Theology, and a Single Subject Credential in Spanish.  “LMU did a good job preparing me for Harvard. I had more experiential knowledge than many of my peers and the faculty members were impressed by my community work and organizing,” Rios said.

As a high school student, Rios had participated in LMU’s Upward Bound program, whose mission is to provide academic services that prepare minority students for admission into institutions of higher education. She was introduced to LMU and university life in a unique and intimate way. The program provides support services such as academic advising and workshops, tutoring, college visits, assistance with the college and financial aid application processes, social activities and a residential summer school experience.

 “College campuses can be so daunting for high school students,” Rios said. “But, through the program, I found that LMU had everything I wanted in a college experience: it was social, political and spiritual.”

While attending LMU, Rios was active with Campus Ministry, the Leavey Center for the Study of Los Angeles and the Belles, a service organization. She also served as a Special Games team leader, a resident adviser and participated in Alternative Breaks trips to Guatemala and the Dominican Republic.

Rios credited Alicia Partnoy, associate professor of Spanish, and Karen Mary Davalos, associate professor of Chicana/o Studies, with the biggest influences on her academic life. “Two powerful women of color helped me find myself through academics and poetry. They went beyond normal teaching methods and put things in a practical context that challenged me to think critically,” Rios said.

Rios currently teaches Spanish Literature for native speakers at a high school in Los Angeles. She created the first interdisciplinary U.C. Accredited “G” Elective “Chicana/o Latina/o Studies” course for high school students in California, which she also teaches. Rios hopes to pursue a doctorate in education. 

“My work is my ministry, and my students are my motivation,” Rios said. “My hope is to never leave the high school environment because that is where paradise and practices of freedom can be continuously cultivated and re-created.”

Posted March 22, 2010