The gift of giving: Parent Specialist finds joy in helping others

Photo by Abby Dougherty

Photo by Abby Dougherty

Ana Rosero, Staff Writer

When the doors of the front office open, one of the first faces you’ll see belongs to Diana Nenque; she’s the smiling woman who’s always ready to help you. But behind Nenque’s friendly exterior is a life that hasn’t always been all-smiles.

Nenque was born in Warsaw, Indiana. She grew up on a milking farm until the owner passed away, and the farm was sold leaving her family without any source of income. She soon moved to Washington State, and later, to the small town of Eagle Pass, Texas.

Nenque got her assistant physical therapist license, but eventually, the job bored her–she knew she needed more connection with people. However, after quitting her job, Nenque struggled to find work. She eventually became homeless with her four kids.

“I was naive, because I didn’t know who to ask [for help], or I guess the other thing would be the pride. I was embarrassed to ask,” Nenque says. “I didn’t know about food stamps, I didn’t know about all this other help that’s out there.”

On the streets with her young family, Nenque resorted to living in a car for three months. While her kids were at school, she was studying at Austin Community College. Without anyone to help her, Nenque had to split her time between motherhood, school, and night shifts.

“While I was homeless I felt very scared, but at the same time I had to be brave, because I had kids looking up to me, and depending on me to keep them safe, so it was hard, but we survived,” Nenque says.

After months of struggle, Nenque finally raised enough money to buy an apartment. Getting back on her feet wasn’t easy, but Nenque realized for the first time, that there were thousands of others that had similar experiences.

Nenque knew that she needed to find a job where she was helping people. She was able to secure one at Travis High School, where she did just what she had always wanted to–help students and their families by easing the transition from middle to high school. But Nenque’s new job was funded by a federal grant, and when the grant ended, so did her job.

Luckily, Nenque heard about ARS, and instantly emailed Principle Jeanne Goka.

“I contacted her and I told her that I was interested in applying and I sent in my resume. A couple of weeks passed, nothing happened so I sent her a little newsletter about myself and some of my strengths and that got me a call,” Nenque said smiling.

Nenque became the ARS Parent Support Specialist, providing resources to families and students in need.

“I try to contact organizations that will help me, by either donating clothes, and everything that a girl might need,” Nenque said.

Through her experience of needing help, she realized just how much help she could give.

“I’m very passionate about helping people, because I was in their shoes. And I want to make sure that it’s not the children’s fault that parents don’t have a place; they should not have to suffer,” Nenque said. “So if I can provide a parent in need of various things then I can make sure that the kids don’t worry about it.”

Nenque’s favorite thing about her job is getting to work with the girls. She likes how girls interact with each other and she likes that the school is all about sisterhood.

“I love the girls. Even though some girls come from different areas, I love the way they all get along,” Nenque said. “It really is a family, a community.”