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The Madera Tribune

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Humble beginnings lead to a prestigious award for Maderan

June 12, 2019

For The Madera Tribune

From left are Liz, Leary, Irie and Timothy Monreal. Timothy was recently awarded with the Spencer Fellowship to complete his doctoral studies at the University of South Carolina. 

Timothy P. Monreal, a Madera native and Ph.D. candidate in Foundations of Education at the University of South Carolina credits humble beginnings for his success today. 

 

“It was so embarrassing driving up to school and my dad would be driving one his buddies for-sale cars from his car lot. We would pull up to the school and there would be $10,000 in bright green in the corner. My dad didn’t own a car,” Monreal said. “He taught us what was important.”

 

That notion of sacrifice and a commitment to the belief that working hard and doing the right thing will pay off, gave Monreal and his eight siblings the boost they needed. 

 

“As a parent, you always want to have your children do better than what you were able to achieve,” Timothy’s father, Jim Monreal, said. “With that comes a lot of sacrifices and finding the right opportunities for them. One thing my wife and I look to is that we are just blessed that our children are so much smarter than their parents.” 

 

Monreal was recently awarded with the Spencer Fellowship to complete his doctoral studies at the University of South Carolina. Before that, Monreal was recognized with a 2019 University of South Carolina Stand Up Hero Award and received the 2018 Outstanding Doctoral Student in Educational Studies at University of South Carolina.

 

His work on Latinx (gender-neutral term for Latino) demographic shifts in the United States, along with teaching and organizing/representing for South Carolina for Education (SCforED) among many roles, gave Monreal an edge in talented pool of applicants. 

 

The Spencer Fellowship is part of the National Academy of Education and is one of the premier organizations for educational research. 

 

They have two programs; one for the dissertation fellowships and the other is for early career scholars. 

 

“This academy really tries to highlight game-changers in terms of educational research in the future. They want to give those individuals money and support to expand their careers to have big impacts in education,” Monreal said. “The Spencer is the crown jewel. Its one of those things that everybody applies to and you do it because it’s like a rite of passage. Everybody knows they aren’t going to get it.”

 

The application process was intensive. Applicants had to give a substantial overview of their dissertation topic, multiple letters of recommendations from high-profile scholars from the field, as well and an extensive plan on what you plan to do with the research. 

 

“There were about seven pieces to the application process, and I think there were about 500 applicants. These weren’t just normal people, they were like the most brilliant people in the world,” Monreal said jokingly. 

 

Monreal sent in his application without much expectation, but when he made the semi-final round, he took notice of the possibilities. 

 

“Holy crap, I actually had a chance at this,” he said. 

 

Monreal got an email from the National Academy of Education and figured it was a “thanks for trying, good luck in the future” emails, but low and behold, he made it into the final 60 and only 35 would get the fellowship. 

 

The final 60 had to reaffirm the progress in their dissertation and show nothing has changed as much. 

 

A month later, he got the final word — he made it. 

 

“I was in shock. I come from humble beginnings and a big family in Madera and I got rejected from every single Ph.D. program in the country except for the University of South Carolina,” Monreal said. “It’s kind of an affirmation of the work that I put in, the family behind me and just the mentorship I received and more than anything that was what got me here.”

 

Monreal carries those rejection letters in his backpack. He wanted to prove those universities wrong, but also honor USC for giving him a chance and having faith in him. 

 

He said he gets mentality from his family. Turning that chip on your shoulder into meaningful and uplifting. 

 

His father contributes his families strive to be the best they can be as a factor in the success of Timothy and his eight siblings. 

 

“I think it’s because they all compete, they want to be the best. My wife Peggy and I try to maintain the expectations that we’ve created in order for them to be successful,” he said. 

 

Tim is active in the community working on the leadership team at SC United with Immigrants and he works with American Educational Studies Association Graduate Coalition, where he started a podcast and peer-reviewed blog for the group and he also teaches at the middle-school level. 

 

His work has appeared in various journals such as; Educational Policy, Latino Studies, Current Issues in Comparative Education, Journal of Latinos and Education, and Middle Grades Review.

 

But most importantly, he’s a father to two beautiful children and a husband to his wife as well. Now that Monreal is a parent himself, he understands the sacrifices you make for your children. 

 

“It is one of those things as you get older, you realize what your parents do for you and have done for you,” he said.

 

Now that Monreal is a parent himself, he understands the sacrifices you make for your children. 

 

“It is one of those things as you get older, you realize what your parents do for you and have done for you,” he said. 

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