A season of giving has come and gone once again. For most of us, the spirit of giving manifested itself in the form of loose change dropped in Salvation Army buckets on our way out of the mall, or through old clothes dropped off at local clothing drives. Maybe some of us felt extra generous and lent a hand to someone in need. Still, in the hustle and bustle of this modern age, it’s easy to forget the importance of giving rather than receiving.
Yet in the blur of life, there are individuals who devote themselves to giving selflessly to those around them. Alicia Coronado is one of those people. A resident of Laredo since 2001, Coronado has dedicated her life and career to serving some of the country’s most vulnerable populations, including recent immigrants and children in the foster care system.
Born and raised in Chicago, she realized her calling at the age of seventeen while volunteering at the Instituto del Progreso Latino in her hometown. She recalled being approached one day by the agency’s director with the opportunity to teach reading and writing to those served by the organization. Coronado seized the opportunity and soon fell in love with the job, which later included teaching English as a second language. Even after finishing her volunteer service, she continued to work with IPL throughout her college years and even after moving onto other careers.
Upon moving to Laredo, she served as a tutor at the TAMIU Writing Center before becoming a caseworker for Voz de Niños, a non-profit organization that serves children placed in foster care. However, she recently returned to her teaching roots and is now an instructor with the International Language Institute (ILI) at TAMIU. The ILI primarily serves students from Mexico, but also receives students from around the world.
“Teaching ESL has been a constant throughout my life,” said Coronado, who is a first-generation Mexican-American.
“It’s very humbling to be in a situation where you listen to other people’s lives. Everyone comes here for a reason. We hear these stories first hand of dreams and opportunities, or stories of hardship in their countries, and why they’re seeking new opportunities here,” added Coronado.
In addition to her work as a teacher and an advocate, she also regularly volunteers with various community theater productions. Her son Andres, who is currently pursuing a BFA in Acting at Texas State University, was the primary reason she began helping out behind-the-scenes. With Andres in San Marcos, she still continues to contribute to the growing theater arts scene in Laredo.
Benito Bondoc, founder of Break A Leg Productions, a local production company founded in 2015 that trains young actors through summer musicals, explained that Coronado’s entire personality can be summed up in one word: animo.
“The animo she possesses through all she confronts goes hand in hand with her willingness to always help those around her. She has taught me that the world around us is bigger than our problems and that life is meant to be lived surrounded by those we love,” said Bondoc, who added, “To know her is a gift, but to take part in the sharing of her wisdom is to see firsthand the amount of love that we should all aspire to have. I will say that my life has been forever changed since meeting Alicia and I will always admire her for being true to her promise of unconditional love.”
Jessica Verastigui, a friend and fellow thespian, elaborated on Coronado’s hard working and selfless personality.
“She knows just the right time to step in when things get tough. When helping out Break A Leg Productions she always provided us with creative ideas for props, and when one idea didn’t work she had four other ideas as a back up. There is always a solution and Alicia would help us find it. Her mind is always flowing like a river of endless ideas,” said Verastigui.
She added that above all, Coronado is reliable outside of any of her professional pursuits or hobbies.
“She is creative and an amazing person to work with, but she’s an even better friend to have in life.”
Alma Gonzalez, a longtime friend and Court Appointed Special Advocate for Voz de Niños, echoed Verastigui’s statements.
“I’ve known Alicia for over ten years. Her passion for community organization, art, and writing is one of the first few things that drew me to her. The light she carries within pours into everything she does, and I am honored that she has been my mentor and illumination during dark times, and above all, my friend,” said Gonzalez.
To say the world needs more people like Alicia Coronado would not only be an understatement, but also incorrect. We are all capable of giving in unique yet profound ways, just as she has done. She is a reminder that every day we live is a day that we can create and share opportunities to grow alongside those closest to us. Most of all, she is living proof that the spirit of giving is always within us, but that it is always up to us to share it as much as we can.