NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - It was an unusual start to life for Mirna Flores, who was born in El Salvador, but smuggled into the United States when her home country was under distress.
"By the time we had left Mexico, the war had begun in El Salvador. It was very scary, very scary. We lived in hiding in the United States, out in the field, for many years," Flores said.
As a young child, Flores then enrolled in an American classroom, where the culture and the language experience were unfamiliar to her.
"It was very painful for a long time, because I was always the odd person out, because there were only two of us that even looked like me," Flores said.
This also presented its own set of challenges, such as making new friends.
"It was always because I didn't speak English, I was not as smart, not as pretty, not as popular, not someone who the kids wanted to play with," Flores explains.
This stigma carried with her well into her high school years, where she had higher aspirations for herself, but the adults around her told her she would never go to college.
But soon her circumstances changed. She started to value her education when she started to believe in own abilities.
"That's where education kicked in, because as I got into some good classrooms with some really good teachers who showed me little pecks of information, and pecks of information there, that I would latch onto that and dig," Flores said.
At this point, the library became a second home.
She made her way to college. During the Reagan administration, Flores and her family were granted asylum under amnesty laws, at which point she became a U.S. citizen.
At the time, her dream career was in law enforcement.
"My dad wanted me to become a nurse. I was like no. I want to be a police officer. He was like no, that's not a girl's job," Flores said. "I was like I want to be a police officer. He was against it completely."
Eventually Flores went on to become a deputy for a Texas county and stayed in that career for almost 10 years. But the long hours took her away from her two children, who needed her attention and care.
"So that's what caused the shift to education, from my law enforcement, but it was all down this path of how I came to be here," Flores said.
Now as a first grade bilingual teacher at Brooks-Quinn-Jones Elementary School in Nacogdoches, Flores is able to connect with children learning multiple languages.
"They have some kind of environment where they're listening to English somewhere. They have older siblings. I mean they interact with dual-tri-lingual environment many times," Flores said.
The first grade teacher said that as a community, we need to understand that education can be empowering and has the ability to elevate lives to provide ample opportunities.