For a 23 year old who has already journeyed far from the North American continent three times, Mary Lewis is still the girl next door who looks forward to walking across the stage to receive her bachelor’s degree, with honors.
Lewis is graduating at Winter Commencement on Dec. 15 at the University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College.
As an education major specializing in early childhood through sixth grade English as a Second Language, Lewis is completing her teacher practicum at Villareal Elementary School in the Los Fresnos Consolidated School District.
“This semester of student teaching has been more challenging than I anticipated, and I have learned so much,” Lewis said. “Knowing about theory, psychology and teaching strategies and actually putting them into practice with 20 first graders that all need your help at the same time really stretched me at first. The students were so eager to learn and share; their enthusiasm rubbed off on me. As the weeks went by, I also got a peek into what was going on inside my students’ lives, and sometimes it broke my heart.”
Lewis not only took her formal education training from UTB and TSC into the classroom with her, but also her experiences working with e3 Partners ministries on mission trips, twice to Peru and once to South Sudan. She was sponsored by her church, Brownsville Community Fellowship, where her father is the pastor.
In South Sudan in early 2009, Lewis was with volunteers about 75 miles from Juba, the new capital city, helping e3 partner medical teams and working with the local children. In Peru, Lewis lived and worked at an orphanage high in the Andes Mountains.
“As soon as you get off the plane in Cuzco, you notice the thin air at that altitude,” she said. “Those of us accustomed to sea level had a little trouble breathing. You have to take it easy the first couple of days and stay hydrated, and after a while, we became acclimated.”
At the orphanage, Lewis and her fellow volunteers facilitated the rotating medical teams’ visits. Several teams came and went during her stay, including a dental unit from Newcastle, England and a medical team from Boerne, Texas.
“We cleaned the clinic to have everything ready for their arrival; plus, we made sure their quarters were clean and ready with sheets and towels and propane for the showers,” she said. “This way they wouldn’t waste time but could hit the ground running. They packed as much care into their visits as possible, seeing children from the orphanage and school as well as folks from the surrounding villages.
“Throughout my time at UTB, I have struggled to balance pursuing excellence in my studies while working, taking care of responsibilities with my family and serving in my church,” she said. “It hasn’t been easy, but having the blessings of scholarships definitely enabled me to push through.”