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Romero Winner Envisions Teaching Career

Jesus Damian Baeza ‘12, the 19th Archbishop Oscar A. Romero Scholarship recipient, accepts the honor from University President William P. Leahy, SJ. (Photo by Lee Pellegrini)

By Melissa Beecher | Chronicle Staff

Published: Mar. 31, 2011

Charismatic student leader Jesus Damian Baeza ‘12 has been named the 19th Archbishop Oscar A. Romero Scholarship recipient.

Baeza was recognized last weekend in a ceremony hosted by the Romero Scholarship Committee and attended by University administrators, students and faculty. Romero Award winners demonstrate a commitment to the values and ideals inherent in the life of Archbishop of El Salvador Oscar Romero, an outspoken advocate for the poor and oppressed who was assassinated 31 years ago. The scholarship covers 75 percent of senior year tuition.  

Also honored was Ilyitch Nahiely Tabora ’03, MSW ’05, who was named the 2011 Rev. John A. Dinneen, SJ, Hispanic Alumni Community Service Award winner.  

Baeza, a Lynch School of Education undergraduate majoring in English and human development, has held multiple leadership positions at Boston College, including orientation leader, captain of the dance troupe Fuego del Corazon and co-director of recruitment efforts for the Organization of Latin American Affairs. A McNair Scholar, Baeza also helped raise $20,000 for the Mississippi Delta Region while on the AHANA Leadership Council Volunteer Corps immersion trip. When he studied in Madrid last year, Baeza co-organized activities for Moroccan children at the local YMCA.  

Baeza attributes his leadership role to the support of his friends, teachers and counselors at San Miguel High School in his native Tucson, Ariz.  

“I have been fortunate enough to come from a supportive place that encourages you to elevate to your potential,” he said. “The same values and ideals here at BC were very much a part of my high school education. I think that is what made me want to get into the field of education – to be part of that for the next generation.    

“It was an honor to be named a finalist for the Romero Scholarship. I feel that it validates all the work I’ve done throughout our years at BC.”  

Baeza said he hopes to join the Teach for America program and become a teacher or guidance counselor to help other students realize their potential.  

Other Romero Scholarship finalists were juniors Vieira Vargas and Stephanie Gonzalez. Gonzalez, a psychology and sociology major from Santa Ana, Calif., has been a leader in OLAA, helping coordinate the Hispanic Heritage Month on campus. She was a resident assistant at Walsh Residence Hall, where she worked with 48 young women. This semester she is studying in Madrid.  

“Oscar Romero is a very inspiring figure. In high school, I was a campus minister, so I am very familiar with the work and life of Fr. Romero,” said Gonzalez in a telephone conversation from Spain. “His work on behalf of the poor and oppressed is very inspiring to me.”  

Gonzalez said she hopes to enter the human resources field, an interest that was sparked after taking elective courses in the Carroll School of Management.   

Vargas is a psychology major with a clinical concentration and history minor from Spring Valley, NY, who credits a series of inspiring experiences for shaping her BC years. A consummate volunteer, she participated in the Obrigado Brazil service trip and spent her time teaching English and math to orphan children.  

“I think that they taught me more than I taught them,” she said.  

Drawn to clinical settings, Vargas volunteered at Mount Sinai Hospital, where she translated a safety website into Spanish to benefit large numbers of mechanics who do not speak or read English, and shadowed a physician she came to regard as a mentor.  

“This scholarship process has inspired me all over again,” said Vargas. “It has allowed me an opportunity to reflect on things I have done and made me look at what I need to do to make a difference in the future.”    

For more on the Romero Scholarship, click here.