Student Spotlight: Maria Spinelli

September 27, 2021 Mary Burke

Hardin-Simmons University’s vision statement is to “be an innovative community of servant scholars engaging the minds and nurturing the spirits of future Christian leaders.” That statement captures the character and endeavors of current HSU senior, Maria Spinelli.

Maria Spinelli

Maria is an Elementary Education major with a focus on bilingual intervention. She is also president of HSU’s Hispanic and Latino club, Sangre. Maria exudes a passion for education, which can be seen in her career aspirations, leadership of Sangre, and overall disposition.

Through chatting with Maria, it was apparent that she is a conduit to learning. She aspires to use her love of the Spanish language to aid those who don’t speak English. Maria believes access to education is a priority and sees herself working with English as a Second Language (ESL) students to ensure every child has access to basic needs and understanding.

Maria proudly connects her Hispanic heritage to everything she does, “Emotionally, spiritually, career-wise, every aspect of my life is connected to my heritage. I love the language I speak and my roots.”

The daughter of Mexican immigrants, Maria believes in connecting people, sharing their stories, and stresses the importance of extending empathy, “There is value in each person’s experience.”

Through her leadership of Sangre, Maria creates an innovative community.

Sangre ScheduleSangre’s mission is to educate group members and the larger community about the diverse Hispanic and Latino cultures. As president of Sangre, Maria creates intentional spaces to foster community and conversation.

“We may speak the same language, but there are different dialects, different regions. Even within the Mexican culture, which I associate, we are different,” Maria excitedly shared she has, “…learned so much since being involved with Sangre.”

Members of Sangre have roots in Puerto Rico, Colombia, Argentina, and Mexico, and Maria has enjoyed learning about each person’s traditions and different dialects of Spanish. Sangre hosts various events to expose the HSU community to Hispanic and Latino foods, music, and traditions.

Maria stressed, “Even though the events may seem just fun and games, they are intentional and always serve as a jumping off point for conversation and exposure to something new. Sangre pushed me to realize I have a voice. I want to be that voice, role model, example for those who don’t feel like they can. Being a part of Sangre has meant so much to me! It has affirmed that I can be an educator and teach academically. I can also be a leader and mentor.”

Through her calling to teach, Maria is a servant scholar who engages minds.

Maria with her parents

Maria was raised in a household that stressed the importance of education. Her parents, who immigrated from Mexico to the United States, witnessed firsthand inequality because of lack of access to education. They reminded their children not everyone has access to adequate schooling, raising Maria to appreciate every opportunity as a chance to learn.

Maria values education and wants to ensure future generations are not barred from accessing education because of a language barrier.

Being bilingual, Maria wants to work with ESL classrooms, to speak up for those who can’t and, “…empower them to find their voices.” She hopes her example can inspire other students to speak up, ask questions, and get involved.

Growing up, Maria witnessed the barriers brought on by an inability to communicate. Multiple times she has inserted herself into situations to translate, using her knowledge of both English and Spanish.

“I am empathetic to the needs of others. I’ve always wanted to help my people because I know the struggle of immigrant families and parents,” she said.

Through her cultural roots, Maria nurtures the spirits of future Christian leaders.

Maria in Mexico City

Maria in Guadalajara, Jalisco, MX

In celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, Maria asks the community, “…to have conversations, to put yourself out there, and give yourself the opportunity to learn.” In sharing stories, we build relationships, we learn to care for one another, and we learn to appreciate one another.

“Be open to what happened to my family. And then you’ll understand why I celebrate their accomplishments and embrace my family’s efforts and roots,” she said. “Be proud of where you came from, your history, know your family story. Acknowledge struggles but celebrate where we are now.”

Maria would love to share her story with you, and you can bet she would love to hear your story, too.