Even Indira Trejo’s name suggests her border-crossing predilection. Her first name evokes the third Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi, whereas her last name relates to her Mexican origins. Indira doesn’t know what inspired her grandfather to choose that name for her, but she seems destined to follow its cross-border prompting.
She was born in California, but lived in Mexico, in the state of Veracruz, through the 9th grade. She lived with her grandmother, was good in school and at making friends and envisioned a Mexican life of college and family.
But at age 15 she moved back to Riverside, Calif., to live with her dad. Suddenly, everything was different: she wasn’t fluent in English, had to get to know her father, and had to deal with the cultural difficulties of being a Mexican in a Mexican-American environment.
She managed to overcome all that and returned to Mexico to go to university, but was crushed to learn that the elite school she had her heart set on wouldn’t accept her American high school diploma.
Not knowing quite what to do, she returned to the U.S. Somewhat out of desperation, she entered the business world: she opened a Los Angeles office of an insurance company and began a career that sustained her for the next six years — insurance sales.
She stayed with the L.A. office for two years, then moved back to Riverside and started working as a sales agent for Allstate. She was convinced by a colleague to move to Virginia and opened an Allstate office in suburban Washington, D.C. She was good at it — exceeding corporate sales goals, running an efficient office. But the years as an independent agent with unending hard work, no health insurance, stress and tension were taking their toll.
When she first started insurance sales in L.A., she had attended Los Angeles Community College, but had to drop out because her English-reading skills weren’t strong enough. Now, in Virginia, she realized she had to make a decision: continue the rewarding but back-breaking life of an independent agent, or make yet another big change in her life. By that time, her mother was living in Spanaway, Wash.
So she made the cross-country move to the Northwest. She enrolled at Pierce College, intending to get her associate’s degree and move on, but a mentor at the community college persuaded her to take a look at UW Tacoma.
Now, as a student, she’s immersed herself in issues of internationalism and borders. She and a fellow student resurrected the Latino Student Union. She works in the International Programs office, getting inspired every day by the overseas experiences of her peers. At home, she and her mom provide foster care to international students.
When asked where she sees herself in 10 years, she coyly acknowledges that her time at UW Tacoma has pushed her to think big. She sees herself with a PhD and an academic career in border and immigration studies.
Whether or not that comes to pass, it seems Indira Trejo has already fulfilled the border-crossing destiny suggested by her name. She just needed UW Tacoma to show her where she was on the map.
John Burkhardt, UW Tacoma Communications, 253-692-4536 or firstname.lastname@example.org