Unsung Heroes:
Get to know some of the people who help make UTRGV run

EDITOR’S NOTE: President Abraham Lincoln said, “Don’t worry when you are not recognized, but strive to be worthy of recognition.” That certainly describes so many of the people who work at The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. They work each day behind the scenes, away from spotlights and accolades, but still knowing they have a job to do that supports the university community and makes it run smoothly. In order for an institution as large as UTRGV to work efficiently, many people must contribute – but some of them go unnoticed. Our Unsung Heroes series highlights just a few of the people who often go overlooked, despite their importance and contributions.

Elisea Vega

MEET ELISEA VEGA, A UTRGV UNSUNG HERO


Text by Steven Masso, student staff writer

Photos by Veronica Gaona, student staff photographer: https://www.flickr.com/gp/utrgvnews/9aMQ9u
 

“Estás sembrando, y luego viene la cosecha.”

Elisea Vega is fond of that Spanish phrase, which translates to “You reap what you sow.”

Vega came to the United States in 1982, when she was just 16. She had to leave her daughter with family members in Mexico, temporarily, so she could make the potentially dangerous trip to Brownsville.

Over time, she was able to get a green card and could work in the United States. She worked hard so she could be reunited with her family again, and she was – her ‘cosecha’ for all the sacrifice and hard work. 

She hopes to have her U.S. citizenship soon.

Vega speaks with quiet strength, and undeniable gratitude, as she shares her story. 

WHAT IS YOUR ROLE AT UTRGV?
Custodial service worker.

HOW LONG HAVE YOU WORKED HERE?
I’ve been working 13 to 14 years.

DESCRIBE YOUR AVERAGE DAY.
I work from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. We start the day by cleaning the buildings. I take care of the Main building and Cueto. I go to Casa Bella, campus police, Vaquero Plaza, the library, and then the cafeteria. I go around picking up the trash, cleaning the restrooms and making sure everything looks nice. Sometimes, people forget their wedding rings and cell phones, so I try to return them to their owner or leave them with campus police.

After work, I go to an English class that I’m taking. I have been going for three years and have learned a lot. It takes a lot of practice.

Being at UTRGV helps me practice because I have conversations with students and faculty who don’t speak Spanish. On the weekends, I like to relax and spend time with my kids. I also like to clean the house and water the plants.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE PART OF YOUR JOB?
Every part is my favorite. I love my job. I love cleaning and I also enjoy talking to students or helping them out by directing them to the right building for their class. I just talk to them. Sometimes, I see students that are sad, so I talk to them so their self-esteem gets better.

TELL US SOMETHING MOST PEOPLE DON’T KNOW ABOUT YOU. 
People know everything about me. But one thing about me is that I don’t like being upset. I’m the kind of person that, if I have a problem, I leave it at home. For example, when my child was sick, I was dealing with that internally. I have my son Gerardo here at school now, and he is studying to be a teacher in mathematics.

DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE MEMORY, OR STORY, ABOUT YOUR TIME HERE?
I have so many favorite memories. There is one that is special. I used to work at the (UTB-TSC) President’s Office as an events assistant for Dr. (Juliet) Garcia (now a member of the UTRGV faculty). I would do all the decorations.  My son got really sick with pneumonia and Dr. Garcia helped me a lot by making a call to the hospital. Later, my son got sick from lupus, and again Dr. Garcia helped me by calling a hospital in San Antonio to set up an appointment. I think God sent her to me as an angel. Because of her, I get to see my son every day. She is a fighter and very humble. Working closely with her and becoming her friend helped me grow as a person. We still keep in touch. 

DO YOU FEEL A SPECIAL BOND WITH THE UTRGV COMMUNITY?
Yes. I’ve seen all the changes that UTRGV has gone through. All three of them. I’m grateful that I have my job. I get sad when I see students who are struggling with family, work and school, and I tell those students, don’t stop, keep moving forward.

I Am UTRGV