“Don’t do it.” “It’s not worth it.” “You’re going to struggle more.”
These were the typical responses to Mariana De Dios ‘26 when she shared her plans to attend college. To most it would seem that life had stacked the odds against Mariana from the beginning, when she was diagnosed with hydronephrosis as a newborn.
Mariana spent the first half of her life in and out of the hospital, preventing her from attending school regularly. Thankfully, Mariana’s teachers, who had previously taught Mariana’s brother and sister, went above and beyond to support Mariana and her family. This support not only helped Mariana successfully continue her elementary education, but also inspired her future career path.
“I still have a teddy bear that a teacher got for me,” said Mariana. “They had everyone in my class sign it for me. Seeing what they did for me as a kid made me want to be there for others. That’s why I want to become a teacher.”
Inspiration is a powerful motivator, and it certainly pushed Mariana to overcome the obstacles in front of her. After falling behind in elementary school, Mariana pushed herself to achieve more in middle and high school, and ultimately ended up graduating from Arsenal Tech High School in the top 20 in a class of 700.
Mariana’s success was also thanks to her family, especially her father.
“My dad is a big inspiration for me,” said Mariana. “He’s the one who inspired me to come to college also. He didn’t have the opportunity to attend college himself.”
After being accepted to Ball State University, Mariana was excited to begin her journey to becoming both the first person in her family to graduate college and to become an inspirational elementary teacher. She moved to Muncie, Indiana and was preparing for her first semester when life set another obstacle in her path.
Days before the start of the semester, Mariana suffered a concussion as a result of a serious car accident. While she attempted to push through and begin her college experience, the physical and mental toll of her injuries prevented her from being able to truly embrace college life. She realized her best chance for success was in transferring to a university closer to her hometown of Indianapolis.
“Dropping out was never on my mind,” said Mariana. “I never wanted to do that. I wanted to continue my college education. So I decided to transfer somewhere closer to home.”
As Mariana began her transfer search, she realized that UIndy checked all the boxes. UIndy was close to her home, family, and doctor; she was able to receive scholarships to help with expenses; she was familiar with the School of Education thanks to her friends who were also majoring in elementary education; and the small campus gave her a sense of community and support that her previous school was missing.
I’d rather be known by my name than a number.Mariana De Dios ’26 (Elementary Education)
From the moment she began the transfer process, Mariana was surrounded by support from UIndy faculty and staff. Ben Houston, assistant director of admissions, guided Mariana through the transfer process, and helped her readjust to college life again. Once Mariana began her journey with the elementary education program, she connected with Jody Rose, undergraduate program advisor in the School of Education, who was always willing to listen to and alleviate Mariana’s worries and help her navigate tools like BrightSpace.
Now thriving at UIndy, Mariana has combined her passion for hands-on learning with her dream of becoming an elementary school teacher by adding a concentration in STEM and a minor in child and youth programs.
“Dr. John Somers is the one who actually got me into STEM,” said Mariana. “Being able to build things has always been a passion of mine, and I want to teach kids how to do it and get them engaged with STEM. Dr. Somers has definitely shown me that I can do it.”
In addition to her studies at UIndy, Mariana also works as a mentor to high school students through Elevate Indianapolis, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing mentorship to Indianapolis-area middle and high school students. Mariana is an alumna of the Elevate Indianapolis program, and she has chosen to stay involved in order to provide the same mentorship and support she received to the next generation.
“I definitely bring a lot of what I learn at UIndy to my work with Elevate,” said Mariana. “But I also bring a lot of what I learned from Elevate to my studies at UIndy. Like right now, we’re co-teaching at Beech Grove and I’d already done that in high school because of Elevate, so I’m able to bring that experience and try new ways of thinking. The experiences really go hand-in-hand.”
With two more years of study to go, Mariana is excited for the many opportunities that UIndy has to offer, including study abroad opportunities. She is currently planning to travel to Maynooth, Ireland in the fall of 2024 as part of an opportunity offered specifically for education majors. This will be the first time that Mariana has traveled outside of the country. Mariana hopes to continue her travels after graduation as well. She plans to visit her family in Mexico, something she hasn’t been able to do previously due to her medical issues.
After conquering obstacles that would have left most people defeated, Mariana is able to proudly push back on the nay-sayers.
“I’m here. I’m doing it,” said Mariana. “Transferring to UIndy is the best thing I’ve ever done. It’s the best thing I could have done for myself. I’m in a better place mentally, physically, and academically.”