Steel Doors To Forty Acres
Former Resident Pursues Journey To Earn Doctorate
By Jose Garza
For many, it is typical to get scolded by your family when caught in a situation of trouble. But, for Enrique Salinas, danger was repetitive in his life.
Growing up in a family with a history of incarceration and poverty — his father, grandfather, uncles and cousin each faced the prison system — following their path was the “normal” way to live life.
“Growing up, (going to prison) was normalized,” said Salinas, who spent time at the Bexar County Juvenile Detention Center for a felony burglary charge. “It was my bias that this is what a man does because that was what my father was doing. You take on that behavior and repeat it.”
A former participant of the Housing Choice Voucher Program and resident of Alazán-Apache Courts, Salinas is changing the family trajectory once marked on his head by pursuing his doctorate in social work at The University of Texas at Austin (UT). Salinas earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Texas State University prior to attending UT.
Expected to graduate in 2025, he wants to show future generations of his family and those from similar backgrounds that they can achieve success if they put in the work.
“When I have a son, niece or nephew, they won’t have to pursue college alone like I did,” Salinas said. “I can walk and support them through every level of education. I just want to bring others along and not be a gatekeeper.”
Salinas credits the teachers and administrators at Por Vida Academy, a local charter school, for the encouragement they provided to take a path toward pursuing a higher education, particularly the school’s principal who earned a degree in social work.
He remembers educators taking him and his classmates on college campus tours nationwide, helping him improve his SAT scores and lending a listening ear when he spoke about his family history of incarceration and poverty.
“I give thanks to Por Vida because they showed me there is another world out there,” said Salinas, who attended after dealing with a history of truancy.
In the classroom, Salinas never forgets his struggles, living at Alazán-Apache Courts with his siblings and cousins, his mother raising six children with an annual income of $10,000 and picking up food and clothing from a local church.
“Not having enough food motivated me as an adult because I wanted more,” he said. “I want to be able to keep the lights on. I want my kids to not worry about the things I had to worry about.”
Salinas encourages others to define what success means to them and not let anyone diminish their accomplishments.
“You don’t have to go to UT (for example) to be successful. If you want to graduate high school and go to work, that is success,” he explained. “Make sure when you go through this journey, you have self-belief. It is all on you.”