December 09, 2014

Honduran family will reunite at commencement

by Christi Mathis

Sindy AmadorCARBONDALE, Ill. -- “Good-bye” has been Sindy Amador’s least favorite word the past couple of years. 

She has been saying it to her young son and the rest of her family far too often and for far too long as she has pursued her dream. The farewells will end for the Honduran native when her beloved family comes to Southern Illinois University Carbondale to see her earn her master’s degree in foreign languages and literature during the Saturday, Dec. 13 commencement. 

The commencement ceremony is set for 2 p.m. in the SIU Arena. 

When Sindy arrived at SIU in August 2012, her son Iven Sandres was just 15 months old.  Her sister, Alejandra Amador, and Iven joined Sindy in Carbondale two months later. For six months, with the help of Alejandra, Sindy juggled full-time motherhood, classes and work as a graduate teaching assistant. Meanwhile, her husband, Sair Sandres, was working and living in Atlanta. Ultimately, Alejandra’s six-month visit period allowed by law was up and she had to return to Honduras. Iven went too, so Sindy’s mother could watch him while his parents handled their obligations in the U.S. 

Amador will never forget the day she returned to her Carbondale apartment without her son during spring break in 2013. 

“I locked myself in the bedroom for the whole weekend and cried and cried,” she said.  “Every day, I questioned whether or not it was worth it and why we were all suffering apart from one another.” 

But, as heart wrenching as it was then and on an almost daily basis since, Amador is confident she did the right thing for her family in the long run. 

“Having a degree from SIU in my country is definitely going to open doors. My family and I will have a better future. It’s something I can give my son as he grows,” she said. 

She earned her bachelor’s degree in English as a Second Language at Universidad Pedagogica Nacional Francisco Morazan in her hometown of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, and went on to teach there. Then, after attending Texas State University during the summer of 2008, Amador really wanted to return to the U.S. for graduate school. A conversation with a colleague proved life-changing.  

Gloria Ulloa is a longtime professor in the English program at Amador’s alma mater in Honduras, and was recently appointed national pedagogical director of a project launched by the Honduran president to teach English to 75,000 children. Ulloa earned her master’s degree in 1995 at SIU on a Fulbright-LASPAU scholarship and was so taken with SIU that she returned to earn her doctoral degree in English in 2006. 

She bragged about her alma mater and all it had to offer so Amador just had to check it out. 

“SIU is a very good university where internationals are welcome. Good students deserve to go to good universities, therefore SIU should be their destination,” Ulloa said. Indeed, five of her students graduated before Amador and there are currently six working toward their master’s degrees while another will begin her studies at SIU in the spring. 

“Sindy is a great person and an amazing professional,” Ulloa said.  She said she first met Amador as a colleague when Amador was hired to teach right after she graduated from college, and then she worked with her as a student in the master’s program before Amador enrolled at SIU. 

“As a colleague, despite her young age, she showed knowledge and great new ideas.  As a student, she was always responsible, creative and the group leader,” Ulloa said. 

Despite the anxiety of being apart from those she dearly loves, SIU has been everything Amador hoped for. 

“I’ve had some really amazing professors here at SIU and some of them have helped me so much,” she said. “I’ve learned a lot from them and my advisers but they’ve also helped me with advice, choosing classes and just having someone to talk to. It’s amazing.” 

Amador has gotten involved at the university. She served as an officer for the Non-Traditional Student Services office and has been active in the Latin American Student Association. 

“Due to the rich diversity SIU has, I was able to meet lots of Latinos here. I also participated in different events, including cooking for the International Food Fair during the annual International Festival,” Amador said. 

She has explored the natural beauty of the area and is involved at Cavalry Campus Church in Carbondale. Church members have been most helpful to her, and she in turn has tried to give back to other students, helping them through the transition process and otherwise when possible. 

She has been able to visit her son and family in Honduras a couple of times and they have spoken via Skype on a daily basis, but the time apart has definitely “been like a rollercoaster. I’ve faced some obstacles but it’s been such a blessing. I feel blessed being called a Saluki and an SIU alumna,” she said.  

Amador has likewise made quite an impression on those she has encountered at SIU. 

“From the moment I met Sindy in the Non-Traditional Student Services office, I knew that she was a very special person,” Deborah Barnett, coordinator of Non-Traditional Student Services, said. “I have watched her persevere through difficult decisions on her journey to completing her degree and even while dealing with her own challenges, she always seeks to help others around her who are in need of guidance or support. Sindy has been an inspiration to those around her, including me, and I believe she will accomplish anything she sets her mind to.” 

Amador’s husband, son, mother and sister will be on hand to see her receive her diploma.  She will move to Georgia then and has applied to work in the United States for a year. After that, her plans are uncertain but she is confident she will be teaching somewhere. And she hopes that someday she will return to SIU to complete her doctorate. But for now, there will be no long good-byes.