Campus life: Anita Revilla
Education may often be taken for granted but for some individuals living in a poor working class environment, education can be the change of a lifetime to move forward.
Anita Tijerina Revilla is a 43-year-old working at UNLV as an associate professor focusing on social justice and a director of gender and sexuality studies.
Revilla is well educated and seemed to have her life and career planned out like many others. She had many obstacles that made it difficult for her to be where she is today.
Revilla grew up in San Antonio, Texas, in a historically Latino working class neighborhood. Revilla is the middle child between her older brother, Luis Revilla and her younger sister, Delia Revilla.
Revilla’s dad grew up in a violent and hurtful household that was a big contributor to his alcoholism and inherited a lot of pain from his abusive family that led to his aggressive behavior towards his wife.
Revilla’s dad was dying from cirrhosis of the liver when he was involved in a car accident where a drunk driver took his life away and left Revilla’s mom to raise three kids.
“Even though my father was an abusive person, I don’t think he was an awful person,” Revilla said. “He just had a hard life: He had no model on knowing how to treat people with love and respect.”
Revilla went to Harlandale High School, which is in the second poorest school district in San Antonio and the students were not expected to go to college.
“In the school, there’s a small percentage of kids who are told: you can do it, you’re gifted,” Revilla said. “I was among those kids and was put into gifted and talented courses and for that reason I was able to move forward.”
One of the challenges Revilla faced was the acceptance of others when it came to a unique short hand Revilla has that made her different from everyone else.
“I remember hating myself, my hand, feeling really awful,” Revilla said. “When I was in high school, I would wear a long sleeve shirt to cover my hand because I would feel people were staring at me.”
The challenge for Revilla was the perspective of beauty growing up especially when kids tried to avoid her for this unique hand but Revilla accredits this trait as the key source that led her to focus on her education to be successful.
Revilla’s junior year she spoke with her counselor who helps students get into college and mentioned her goals on dreaming big and attending an Ivy League school.
“The counselor told me: I don’t think you should try to go to those schools. You should try to go to one locally because you have more chances of getting in,” Revilla said. “So she didn’t think that I could get into those Ivy Leagues. So I applied on my own to 13 colleges.”
Princeton University accepted her.
While at Princeton, Revilla felt unaccepted among her predominately white classmates.
“It was hard. It was really hard,” Revilla said. “It was far away from home Princeton was sometimes racist, classist and a sexist environment and I didn’t know how to deal with it.”
Revilla was determined and didn’t let that stop her.
Revilla graduated Princeton with a degree in religion, got a masters in anthropology and education from Columbia University and finished with a social sciences Ph.D. from UCLA.
“The reason I wanted a college education from Ivy Leagues so badly was because I wanted to take care of my mom,” Revilla said. “That was my goal.”
Currently, Revilla teaches many social justice courses at UNLV and has been instructing for 11 years, impacting students’ lives every day.
“Anita is someone who is really devoted to her students,” said Eyelyn Medina, a UNLV alumnus who took many of her courses. “She takes our potential, so we can live out our dreams and helps us understand what the world should be like.”
“When I was studying at UNLV, I doubted my potential,” said Jasmine Rubalcava, UNLV alumnus. “Anita was always there encouraging me to keep going. It was her passion, commitment and advice that got me to where I am today.”
Revilla’s mother empowered her to dream big, to know she was valued and loved and that Revilla could be supported in any choices she made.
One thing Revilla tells her students is if she can do it under her circumstances, anyone can with enough hard work and dedication.
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