The Latino Professionals Association
Presents Yo Soy
Rolling with the Punches
|Amparo Moreno, who grew up
in South Texas and Mexico, is
the 5.09 HSED instructor and
high school completion lab
coordinator at Madison College’
s DTEC campus.
didn’t have any experience. But in order to get the experience, she needed the education. It was a Catch 22 situation.
“I was filled with self-doubt,” Moreno said. “To make a long story short, I started applying for jobs because I was told here at the university I had everything school
wise, but I didn’t have any experience. I had to get either volunteer hours or work in the field. I needed more experience in dietetics and nutrition. I became a
volunteer at UW Hospital in the nutrition department. And then I started working at a restaurant because that would count. And then while I was there, I realized, ‘This
is not what I want and envisioned.’ When I was younger, I always thought I wanted to be a clinical dietician. It wasn’t so.”
As Moreno tried to find work, she faced stiff competition in Madison’s highly skilled labor market.
“I would continuously apply for different jobs,” Moreno said. “And I would get turned down. I would call HR and tell them politely, ‘Can you tell me what I did wrong
so that I can improve? What can I do to improve my interviewing skills? Maybe I’m not presenting myself well.’ That was very frustrating because I would get into
the second and third rounds and get really, really excited. ‘Okay, I’m going to get my first professional job. I’m going to do it.’ And then all of a sudden, they are like,
‘Thank you very much, but no thanks.’ It was very heartbreaking. I was always told, ‘Unfortunately, there is another candidate who was more qualified than you. They
have a master’s. They have a Ph.D. They have the RD and you don’t. They have more experience.’”
Moreno decided to get some counseling and career guidance from UW-Madison. While sitting in the waiting room, Moreno noticed a cardboard display.
“There was a little, raggedy flyer that said, ‘Are you passionate about nutrition,’” Moreno said. “I was like, ‘Yes!’ “Are you passionate about education?’ ‘Maybe.’ Are
you interested in working with children?’ ‘Perhaps.’ It was like they were speaking to me and at the end, it was like, ‘Why don’t you become a nutrition educator in
the K-12 system?’ And I was like, ‘Yes’ because I fell out of love for nutrition because in the clinical setting where I was volunteering — I worked in the rehab unit —
all the patients are recuperating from severe amputations or heart failure or renal failure. It was a revolving door. I saw the same patients again even though I only
volunteered for a couple of months. Diabetes is such a beast of a disease. I thought, ‘I am not catching them at the right moment as a nutritionist. I’m not going to
have any impact on their lives. I’m not going to help them. And geriatric people can be very angry. They haven’t changed in 20-30 years and they aren’t going to
change. They are less likely to change if you are telling them, ‘You need to count your carbs.’ They aren’t going to do it. I thought, ‘Hey, if I teach kids the importance
of eating healthy and I make it fun, then maybe that is my calling.’ I went back to school to get a teaching certification to become a FACS (Family and Consumer
Science) teacher in a K-12 system.”
Moreno thought she would get her credentials and then move to Houston. But God intervened in her life once again.
“That was my plan, but then I ended up getting pregnant,” Moreno said. “I had my son. Again, it was like I started making plans and God was like, ‘No, hold on you
sweet child.’ I thought I was ready to go back into the workforce. I applied for a part-time position here at Madison College to be a receptionist. Initially, they had told
me I could start in September, but then HR called me and told me they made a mistake and I needed to start in July. And my son had been born with several health
issues. And so I thought if I waited until September, I would be good. But I told them thank you for the opportunity, but I had to decline the position because my son
was my priority.”
Within Madison College, Moreno went through a lot of changes and ups and downs to get where she is today, a HSED counselor and high school completion lab
coordinator. And while things always didn’t work out, she kept on trying and found the place she needed to be in life.
One of the stops was as a counselor with the migrant studies program.
“My job was to kind of be the mom,” Moreno said. “I would call the students. ‘Okay, I saw that you were absent. How come you aren’t going to school? What’s going
on?’ I would knock on their door. ‘You told me you were going to come and you didn’t come. What’s going on” Talk to me. You need a bus pass? We can connect you
to those resources. Going through a divorce? Come in and we will figure it out. We’ll print out the paperwork and try to connect you with Centro Hispano. Someone
always knows someone who can always help you. Don’t have daycare? Well you know we offer child care. You just have to come.’ There was a lot of helping the
students. ‘I’m depressed. I don’t feel like I can do this.’ ‘Don’t worry about it. Just come and talk to me. Or if you don’t want to talk with me, I can connect you with
someone else.’ That was my job, removing barriers one at a time. I think all of the experiences that I have had led to this, understanding that you work very hard to
get a job. And then you are told that you are not good enough for it. I would get that. We have a saying in Spanish, ‘The way you are, I was. The way I am, you will
become.’ I constantly tried to encourage them. ‘I know. Don’t worry about it.’ Or I would say, ‘Maybe you need to take a break and then call me back when you are
Moreno was an example for them to never give up.
“I could give them my strength,” Moreno said. “You’re dealing with a marginalized population and they are going through a lot. In life, I love irony. They are the ones
who are harvesting all of this food, but yet, they don’t have food at their tables. Or they are the ones who are working and breaking their backs and no one is taking
care of them. It gets to me. As a person, where I am now was where I was meant to be.”
Next issue: The continued struggle
By Jonathan Gramling
Amparo Moreno’s life’s journey has not been an easy one. It’s had its ups and downs and turn arounds, but through strength,
determination and listening to God’s will, Moreno has landed where she was meant to be all along.
Moreno was born in El Paso, Texas, but the family moved across the border to Ciudad Juarez where they lived for 16 years. While
she went to elementary school in Juarez, Moreno crossed the border every day starting in 7th grade to attend the Loretto Academy,
a private, all-girls Catholic school in El Paso because her father wanted the kids to attend American universities. When the family
moved to El Paso in 1996 because the Mexican economy took a turn for the worst, Moreno switched to El Paso Coronado High
After attending El Paso Community College, Moreno transferred to New Mexico State University.
“At first, I wanted to be a dietician,” Moreno said. “I lived in Las Cruces, New Mexico for about four years to attend New Mexico
State University. And then I moved back home. Then I was going to live in Houston, Texas where my sister lived and finish up my
RD, which is a registered dietician. But then Hurricane Rita happened in 2005. Unfortunately my sister lost everything. She said,
‘Parros’ — only my family calls me that — ‘Don’t come. Don’t come. We don’t even know where we are going. We lost everything.’
It was so devastating. I wasn’t going to Houston and then a good friend of mine was living here in Madison. She had just
graduated from law school. She said, ‘Why don’t you move up here. The university has a great dietetics program. If you know the
history, you know that UW-Madison is the one that discovered Vitamin D and other B vitamins.’ I was sold. ‘Sure, why not? I’ll
come to Madison, Wisconsin. Where is that?’”
Moreno planned on getting into the registered dietician program. After all, she had good grades. And while she had the grades, she