Where are they now? – Trava Sparks Baker – Imelda Sanchez

Editor’s note: This feature is dedicated to profiling Van Horn High School Alumni and updating locals on what became of them after graduation.  The Advocate welcomes information for publication on VHHS Alumni and will try to highlight two Van Horn Eagles every week.

Trava Sparks Baker

When my father moved our family to Van Horn in the summer of 1968, I thought it was the end of the world–literally and figuratively!   At 16, I was not happy to leave my friends and the small school that had been so important to me for the past two years.  I adjusted eventually and grew to love the wide open space and the mountains. I graduated from high school, left home, returned several times and spent the first half of my adulthood in Van Horn.

I jumped right into adulthood out of high school, marrying the day after I graduated, and moving away.  After a few years, I returned to Van Horn,  and two children later, I started classes at Sul Ross in 1974.  It took me several starts and stops, restarts, and one more child, before I finished college, graduating in 1982.  Beginning teaching for Culberson County ISD in the fall of 1982, I followed in my mother’s footsteps.  (Betty Sparks finished her degree the summer after I graduated from high school and taught many years in Van Horn schools).

I have been in education for 30 years now, with about half of that time in administration.  Currently, I am principal at McCamey Primary School; I will return to Marfa at the end of the year to finish my career as a teacher at Marfa I.S.D., where I was formerly principal.  I am looking forward to working more closely with children and leaving the administrative headaches to someone else.

My home has been in Marfa for the past 24 years, where I live with my husband, Kelly Baker, and a menagerie of animals on ten acres.  I enjoy reading, digging in the dirt and hanging out with family.  We are fortunate that three of our children and our grandchildren live nearby in Alpine, so we see them frequently.  While I tried retirement for a few years, I failed at it and returned to work three years ago.  I used to not understand those who said they would never retire, but I think I understand now.  Not that I am planning to work forever, but I am going to think twice about it next time.

Although I was born and raised the first eight years of my life in Uvalde County, Texas, and still have family, reunions and our family cemetery there, West Texas is home and always will be.  When I drive through Lobo Valley and see the house my father built up on the hill or cruise down main street in Van Horn, I still smile as I recall the memories.

I finally get it; I understand my parents’ wanderlust.  You just know when you get there.  For my parents, John and Betty Sparks, the destination ended up being the remoteness of Shafter; however, for me it’s the highlands of West Texas–Marfa.  And though Van Horn did not end up the destination, it was an important part of my journey.   

Imelda Sanchez

Imelda Sanchez graduated from Van Horn High School as the class Salutatorian in May 1992.  Then, a fearful small town girl who was faced with the tough decision of waiting to attend ASU in the fall with her best friend, Jodi Fierro Corrales, or venturing off on her own a semester early.  She was convinced by Mr. & Mrs. Elias Solis, her parents, Mr. & Mrs. Lolo Sanchez, her sister –Sally Espinoza, brothers- Harvey and Jaime Sanchez, and Jodi’s mom Mary Carrasco to take advantage of the scholarship she had earned.  She decided to heed their advice, and a week later in June 1992, her parents dropped her off at Angelo State University in San Angelo, TX.  Perhaps the toughest decision they ever made by telling her it was for her own good & to face her fears as she hung on tightly to the door of her father’s truck while she pleaded with them:  “Please!  I don’t want to stay here, take me back with you, I’m going to miss you, I don’t know anyone, Please, I’m scared!”    Her parents couldn’t fight back the tears, but they knew in their hearts that they had raised a strong-willed girl who had the ability and ambition to fulfill her lifelong dream of becoming an early childhood teacher.  As they tried to drive away her parents told her “ No tengas miedo, vas a estar bien, quedate y logra tus suenos, Diosito te va a cuidar!”  Needless to say, she had to do what she had to do.  She stayed behind with what seemed at the time like a broken & fearful heart that would never be repaired.

She walked into her dorm and quickly started meeting life- long friends.  Slowly she started overcoming her fears & became accustomed to college life.  She attended every day and never missed a day of college.  On December 15, 1995 she accomplished her goal and graduated from ASU, thanks to all the love and support from her loving family and friends, which she will always remember and be grateful to forever!

In 1995 she returned to her beautiful hometown, Van Horn, which she holds dearly in her heart.  She taught Pre-Kindergarten there for eight years, but decided to move back to San Angelo with the love of her life, Juan Atilano, after hitting a deer while travelling every weekend to visit him.  She would leave San Angelo at 3:30 a.m. to be at work in Van Horn by 7:30 a.m.   Imelda has been in San Angelo since 2003 and is still doing what she loves to do-Teaching Pre-Kindergarten.  She loves her precious little ones dearly and looks forward to going to work each day.    She still plans to move back to Van Horn soon so she can be closer to her beloved parents, nieces, and nephews.

Imelda has a passion for traveling and travels the world on her summers off with her faithful travel companion, Jesus Olivas.  Occasionally, they are joined by other friends & family members.  This year their cousins Jesse Outlaw, Danny Suarez, and niece Jessica Espinoza will be joining them on their next adventure.   What seemed to be “broken & fearful heart which she thought would never be repaired,” has been repaired and she now lives a fearless life living it to its fullest!  Her motto is:  “Remember that a life lived in fear is a life half lived!” She thinks people should always follow their dreams no matter how scary they may seem.  The only scary thing is never knowing if you could’ve accomplished your dream and not trying for fear of trying something  new or different.  Don’t make your fear of what could happen make nothing happen.  ALWAYS PUT YOUR FEARS BEHIND YOU AND YOUR DREAMS IN FRONT OF YOU!

Imelda Sanchez graduated from Van Horn High School as the class Salutatorian in May 1992.  Then, a fearful small town girl who was faced with the tough decision of waiting to attend ASU in the fall with her best friend, Jodi Fierro Corrales, or venturing off on her own a semester early.  She was convinced by Mr. & Mrs. Elias Solis, her parents, Mr. & Mrs. Lolo Sanchez, her sister –Sally Espinoza, brothers- Harvey and Jaime Sanchez, and Jodi’s mom Mary Carrasco to take advantage of the scholarship she had earned.  She decided to heed their advice, and a week later in June 1992, her parents dropped her off at Angelo State University in San Angelo, TX.  Perhaps the toughest decision they ever made by telling her it was for her own good & to face her fears as she hung on tightly to the door of her father’s truck while she pleaded with them:  “Please!  I don’t want to stay here, take me back with you, I’m going to miss you, I don’t know anyone, Please, I’m scared!”    Her parents couldn’t fight back the tears, but they knew in their hearts that they had raised a strong-willed girl who had the ability and ambition to fulfill her lifelong dream of becoming an early childhood teacher.  As they tried to drive away her parents told her “ No tengas miedo, vas a estar bien, quedate y logra tus suenos, Diosito te va a cuidar!”  Needless to say, she had to do what she had to do.  She stayed behind with what seemed at the time like a broken & fearful heart that would never be repaired.

She walked into her dorm and quickly started meeting life- long friends.  Slowly she started overcoming her fears & became accustomed to college life.  She attended every day and never missed a day of college.  On December 15, 1995 she accomplished her goal and graduated from ASU, thanks to all the love and support from her loving family and friends, which she will always remember and be grateful to forever!

In 1995 she returned to her beautiful hometown, Van Horn, which she holds dearly in her heart.  She taught Pre-Kindergarten there for eight years, but decided to move back to San Angelo with the love of her life, Juan Atilano, after hitting a deer while travelling every weekend to visit him.  She would leave San Angelo at 3:30 a.m. to be at work in Van Horn by 7:30 a.m.   Imelda has been in San Angelo since 2003 and is still doing what she loves to do-Teaching Pre-Kindergarten.  She loves her precious little ones dearly and looks forward to going to work each day.    She still plans to move back to Van Horn soon so she can be closer to her beloved parents, nieces, and nephews.

Imelda has a passion for traveling and travels the world on her summers off with her faithful travel companion, Jesus Olivas.  Occasionally, they are joined by other friends & family members.  This year their cousins Jesse Outlaw, Danny Suarez, and niece Jessica Espinoza will be joining them on their next adventure.   What seemed to be “broken & fearful heart which she thought would never be repaired,” has been repaired and she now lives a fearless life living it to its fullest!  Her motto is:  “Remember that a life lived in fear is a life half lived!” She thinks people should always follow their dreams no matter how scary they may seem.  The
nly scary thing is never knowing if you could’ve accomplished your dream and not trying for fear of trying something  new or different.  Don’t make your fear of what could happen make nothing happen.  ALWAYS PUT YOUR FEARS BEHIND YOU AND YOUR DREAMS IN FRONT OF YOU!