By Violeta Rocha
Special to The Texas Catholic
Years of hard work, determination and prayers culminated in a celebration on May 27 for Luz Flores as her daughter Cielo Martínez walked the stage as a member of the Bishop Dunne Catholic School Class of 2022.
That celebration, though, would not have been possible without a combination of a family’s perseverance and a Catholic community’s helping hand.
A native of Zacatecas, Mexico, where she was educated in a Catholic school and graduated as an accountant, Flores cleaned hallways, lounges and offices at the Oak Cliff school every night for 10 years, harboring a desire to one day see her daughter in those classrooms. When the time came for Martínez to attend middle school, Flores knew that a Catholic school education would open doors to a lifetime of opportunity, so she sought tuition assistance and secured her daughter a spot at Bishop Dunne.
“My mom wanted me to come to this school because she personally knew the teachers and knew what kind of education they could give me here,” Martínez said.
She recalls the nights she fell asleep at the school after doing her homework while her mother cleaned.
“My mom worked nights so I did my homework here. I’d fall asleep, and when I woke up it was time to go back to school. It’s like having grown up here,” Martínez said, adding that she was truly grateful for her mother’s sacrifice.
Throughout her seven years at the Oak Cliff school, Martínez said in her heart that she has always “felt at home.” She embraced every aspect of the school, especially its spirit of service as she volunteered with a group of students that helped to clean the streets, picking up rubbish around the neighborhood.
“I was happy to do it because we did something that was good for the community,” Martínez said, adding that it “felt better doing it with friends.”
Though excited to embark on her journey to college, one challenge Martínez faced was the college application process, especially pertaining to admission and financial aid. The process can be long, confusing and intimidating.
It was made even more challenging by the language barrier for Flores, who was unable to assist her daughter.
Despite the difficulties, Martínez received multiple scholarship offers, including College Ready Academy, Odyssey, First Phoenix and CB National Recognition. She also received acceptance letters from the University of Chicago, DePaul University, Loyola University Chicago, and Columbia College Chicago.
The accolades and acceptance letters came as no surprise to those who have taught Martínez at Bishop Dunne.
“Cielo is a hard-working student, diligent, respectful and dedicated,” said Vladimir Sosa, who teaches physics at Bishop Dunne. “Her positive attitude is infectious.”
Martínez graduated from Bishop Dunne with a 4.3 average, was recognized as a Golden Falcon, and ranked first in her mathematics and orchestra classes. Though she received multiple offers and opportunities for college, she eventually landed on the decision to attend the University of Chicago where she will study biology and cinematography.
On the day of Martínez’s graduation, Flores could not contain her emotions at having her longtime dream achieved.
“Seeing her walk on the stage to receive her diploma was a boomerang of emotions and memories,” Flores said. “Seeing her graduate is a great joy; I’m overjoyed because I know she will go where she wants and study what she likes.”
For Flores, her daughter’s graduation was a bittersweet moment as she couldn’t deny feeling anxious about her daughter’s move to a distant city. “I commend my daughter to our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the best caretaker,”
Flores said, who encouraged her daughter to remember to prayerfully ask for God’s help in times of need and He will answer. “I just tell her: ‘talk with God’, that’s always my response.”
As Martínez embarks on this new adventure at the University of Chicago, she knows she’ll be ready for whatever challenges she faces. After all, her mother provided her with a good example of how to achieve whatever she wants in life:
“Work hard with humility and gratitude,” she said. “And dreams come true.”
In addition to hard work and dedication, Martínez was a recipient of tuition assistance via the annual Bishop’s Invitational Golf Tournament, Diocesan Education Endowment Trust and other Diocese of Dallas programs.
“Providing tuition assistance is of paramount importance to the Diocese of Dallas and we are grateful to the faithful in the diocese who respond generously with gifts to support students like Cielo,” said Kelly Halaszyn, the director of development for the Diocese of Dallas. “For over a decade, our Diocesan Education Endowment Trust and the Bishop’s Invitational Golf Tournament have served those with the most need by providing tuition assistance to make Catholic education available, accessible, and affordable to all who desire it. In partnership with The HALO Initiative who coordinates and distributes the tuition assistance program for Diocesan schools, the Catholic Schools Office is able to provide the most assistance to families who need it most with an annual distribution of over $2 million.”
To learn more on how to assist additional students like Martínez in receiving a Catholic education and the lifetime of opportunities that it provides, visit csodallas.org/finances.