Student Reunites With Principal Who Helped Her Choose College
Thirty years ago and in the middle of nowhere, my mother, Rosario, got her chance against the odds. She was a Mexican immigrant, the daughter of a field hand, living on a ranch in Coyonosa, Texas, that has a current population of 163.
Her father was content to let her chop cotton and marry another field hand. But at the school she attended down the road in Imperial, her principal wasn’t going to let that happen. Brit Webb wanted better things for her.
They haven’t spoken since she graduated in 1986, so I arranged for them to meet.
"I remember you came and told me that you were gonna move and I told you, 'No, you’re gonna be valedictorian so you better talk daddy into staying where he is,'” Webb says.
And sure enough you talked him into it.
"I did a lot of crying but he said yes," Rosario says.
"The truth was it was really important for you to be valedictorian," Webb says with a laugh. "And I’ll never forget when it was time for the senior trip and you didn’t show up to get on the bus. So I went to Coyonosa to see what happened to you and found you sitting on the side of the road and your dad had the hood up. I never did know if there was something wrong with the vehicle or he just didn’t want you to go."
"He didn’t want me to go," she says.
"I think he didn’t want you to grow up," Webb says.
"No, he didn’t want me to do anything," Rosario says.
After graduation, when Webb found out that she wasn’t going to go to college, he went back to Coyonosa.
"…and sure enough you and your mom were chopping cotton. And thank goodness daddy wasn’t home," he says laughing.
"He wasn’t home and you didn’t ever talk to him, did you?"
"No!" Webb exclaims.
"For some reason I thought you had talked to him," she says.
"Heck no, I didn’t talk to him!"
"You kidnapped me!"
"Pretty much," Webb says. "I asked you why you didn’t go to school and you said he didn’t want you to. And I said talk to momma and see what she says. And y’all talked in Spanish and I asked what she said and she said, 'Go.' I said get your stuff and took you right to Sul Ross before daddy got home."
That’s Sul Ross State University in Alpine.
"I don’t think I have the nerve I used to to do those things, just pick a kid up and take him to school. But I knew that’s where you belonged and knew it would make a total difference in your life," Webb says.
"It has. It’s made a huge difference."
As we kept talking, I realized that my mom wasn’t the first or last person to be taken to college by this benevolent principal.
"That wasn’t the first time I had done that," he says. "I had a good student that I took up to El Paso to try to get her a scholarship…"
But Webb wasn’t alone in this mission.
"I’ve been real fortunate in keeping up with a lot of students like you," he says. "So many of them have turned out teachers and all kinds of professions and that’s been real gratifying. Of course, my wife did lots of counseling in the little schools we were in."
"Yeah, she did," Rosario says.
"She taught science as well as home ec. I guess you had home ec with her."
"Yes, I did! I had home ec with her. She taught us how to cook, how to sew, and how to be young ladies and behave, be proper," Rosario says.
"I always enjoyed working with her because she did so well with the kids like you. We grew up on farms and we kinda understood a lot of what you were going through," Webb says.
"I didn’t know that. I didn’t know you were a farm boy," she says.
"Oh yeah, I understood what was going to happen to you if you didn’t get an education," Webb says.
"I was going to be on the farm forever. That’s what was going to happen. With a bunch of kids," she says.
"That’s just what happened to so many young people about that time. The present mayor of Valentine and his wife, I just took them to Sul Ross and put them in school just like you and that was before you," Webb says,
I was surprised to hear this. How many people have you taken to Sul Ross?
"I don’t even know."
As I listened to my mom talk about what her life would be like if she stayed on that farm, I understood why the Webbs did what they did.
"I always miss the kids," Webb says. "You teach in elementary don’t you?"
"I’m finishing my 24th year of teaching with special needs children," Rosario says.
"Wow! It does go fast," he says.
"Well, I’m glad. I’m glad because having to live with my parents and work in the fields was just not- I just couldn’t see me surrounded by that mindset," she says. "And the guys that wanted to date me usually told me I was kind of uppity. I told them that I wasn’t uppity I was just smarter than you. You know, not uppity at all. It scared me to because I would see girls my same age living there with a bunch of kids and the same cycle of poverty and it just scared me to death to have to do that."
Now Webb is 87-years old and semi-retired. He ran a tire shop in Marfa until he couldn’t lift the tires anymore. But he’s not done.
"You’ll find it hard to believe what I’ve been doing unless you’ve been looking on Facebook," he says.
"I’ve seen that you’re busy," he says.
"I’ve been…substitute teaching."
"Are you?" she asks.
Leave it to a couple of teachers to show you where real opportunity can take you.