Alverno at Work: Betty Suárez
“I was born an advocate and change agent,” declares Betty Suárez ’12.
That passion has powered everything from Suárez’s early career in social services to her advocacy for victims of human trafficking to her current role as director of admissions at Cristo Rey Jesuit High School Milwaukee. Suárez, whose family immigrated to the United States from Nicaragua when she was just 3 years old, relishes the opportunity to connect Cristo Rey’s predominantly Spanish-speaking families with an education experience that she believes is transformative.
“I truly believe that Cristo Rey is the ticket for students to go onto college because we provide a support system that students and families need when it comes to the college process, especially for first-generation students,” she says. “I wish there’d been a Cristo Rey when I was growing up because I had to figure it out all on my own.”
And there was a lot to figure out: When she started at Alverno, she was a nontraditional student with a preschool-aged son. “I was able to go to work during the week to support my son and I,” she says. “Sometimes I had to take my son to classes with me, and my professors were fine with it. That was huge.”
At Alverno, Suárez focused on growing as a leader. She organized a panel on human trafficking and a fundraising event to benefit an orphanage in Nicaragua where children were being trafficked.
College wasn’t always easy, but it was worth it, she says. “I’m proud to be a role model for my son and to make my parents proud, knowing they came to this country and made so many sacrifices because they wanted to give my siblings and me more opportunities,” she says.
Soon after graduating from Alverno, Suárez earned her master’s degree in business administration from Cardinal Stritch University and worked at such nonprofits as the Sojourner Family Peace Center. When Cristo Rey approached her about the admissions job a few years later, she was thrilled.
“Education has always been a passion of mine,” she says, “and after working in the social services field for a very long time, I thought it was time for me to go back to that passion. Especially with Cristo Rey’s mission to empower and support students with limited financial needs, and to help families who are trying to overcome so many different barriers, I thought, ‘This is for me.’”
At Cristo Rey, Suárez attends high school fairs, presents to middle schoolers, plans fun events for prospective students and their families, works one on one with students and parents, and meets community stakeholders. “I’m out in the community a lot to let people know what we do and how we’re different,” she says.
Her advocacy doesn’t end at work, either. She has volunteered at the UMOS Latina Resource Center, which serves victims of domestic abuse, sexual assault, and human trafficking. “I want to make sure no person goes unheard,” she says. She also volunteers as a breast health educator for Susan G. Komen Wisconsin. “My godmother died of breast cancer so I do that to honor her,” she explains.
Whatever she does, she gives it her all, and she credits Alverno for teaching her the value of feedback and reflection. Every day, she reflects on what she did well and where she needs to improve.
“Learning never stops,” Suárez says. “Every day life teaches us something new.”