Doctorate of Mexican Studies student Grace Tapia-Beltran has her life centered around education, and through her studies she discovered AmeriCorps.
Grace is our AmeriCorps member serving with the Southwest Workers Center as the Job Training Associate. The Southside Worker Center supports a community of worker-leaders building collective power and raising the standards of worker conditions so that members can take part in dignified work and earn just wages.
“I first heard about AmeriCorps through the Mexican American studies at the U of A, they had sent the job description out on the jobserve and it called to me because it was in my neighborhood in South Tucson, and once I found out about the servitude and community-based organization that it is I was really excited to be apart of it from many years,” said Grace. “When I found out that AmeriCorps gives an education stipend it was a blessing because it was exactly how much money I needed to cover my fall and spring tuition.”
On top of studying for her doctorate, Grace also works as an assistant principal at TUSD and is actively using her educational background to bring new and innovative ideas to the Southwest Workers Center.
“My strengths are community engagement and coaching and guiding leadership. I get to use those by doing community engagement things such as having a movie night for the workers, focusing on building community relationships, and our workers work so hard and their jobs are so laborious and they have kids and we want to give them a break.”
“I was able to use a grant for our workers to be able to work and clean their yards. That type of leadership and community organization comes easy for me.”
Her skills and passion for education also tie into the work that she does at the Southwest Workers Center.
“I am working on connecting Pima County to our worker’s center because our workers want to learn English. “I also started working with families that are seeking asylum and I was able to link them with TUSD and give them that resource for their children to get them enrolled. I think about the quote ‘Literacy is Liberation.’ My grandmother said ‘You have to get a high school diploma, you have to learn how to read,’ now in the doctorate program fully understanding what freedom and reading means it has come full circle for me.”
Education is a central theme in Grace’s life, and that carries with her toward her goals for the future.
“I would love to be a professor at the University of Arizona. I want to help educate adults to learn what community service means, truly understand where racism and discrimination come from, and how we can come together to heal that through generations of understanding years of colonization, etc. I would love to be able to educate people on how to change that type of historical mindset. Education has a bad habit of not teaching children K-16th about cultural and historical realities. For me, with my goals of being a professor, I know that I will be involved in my community and be able to teach it to people who do not live in underprivileged areas, and teach them about marginalization.”