UT Dallas - The LINK
July 2015

Alumna's Immigrant Experience Drives Work with Children, Families

Cecilia Juarez-Lazcano MS'07 (left) conducts a developmental screening for a young child.

Mexico native Cecilia Juarez-Lazcano MS'07 came to the United States with a vision to help the most vulnerable of people in need: children.

After spending more than eight years working with children and families in her hometown of Mexico City, she moved to Dallas to continue her pursuit of helping people and her dream of earning a master's degree. But Juarez-Lazcano quickly ran into challenges, in particular, learning English. She had studied the language for a number of years and continued taking classes after her move. But she struggled to make conversation in English and found the process frustrating.

"I felt embarrassed having to ask others to repeat themselves and had trouble distinguishing between words such as 'apple' and 'couple,'" she said.

After noticing a ringing in her ears and experiencing dizziness, Juarez-Lazcano learned that English wasn't the issue. She had a hearing problem. After she was diagnosed with hearing loss and outfitted with a hearing aid, her English improved rapidly.

Awarded a full scholarship from the Mexican National Council for Science and Technology, she enrolled in UT Dallas' human development and early childhood disorders master's program and graduated in 2007.

"I learned what it was like to live with a special need, and the program strengthened my desire to help others overcome their struggles," she said.

After working with at-risk children and families with social-emotional challenges at a Dallas-area organization for six years, she returned to UT Dallas to work at the school where she once studied. Today, Juarez-Lazcano manages developmental screenings for high-need children up to age 5, providing referrals and guidance for parents via the Center for Children and Families.

"It's very satisfying to help young children and their parents find the tools to overcome their struggles, and help set them down a path for higher achievement," she said.

Juarez-Lazcano's story of working toward her dream was recently featured in a live storytelling Oral Fixation show, "Destination America: True Stories of Immigration."

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