A TCS Agent of Change in The Making: First Generation College Student, Marylin Marquez Orellana

By Dr. Michael Horowitz 

Marylin MarquezAt the very center of the TCS Education System mission to create change agents that serve the global community are our partner college students. The individual strides they each make to favorably impact local communities during their education and throughout their lives elevates our entire System to make a meaningful impact around the world.  Seeing the successful rise of each individual TCS student Agent of Change is what drives us, and especially so when those change agents are the first in their families to attend college – as either the children of U.S. immigrants, or immigrants themselves. Their passionate path to make the world a better place is not only inspiring to our entire TCS community, but often enthusiastically rewarded with financial support in the form of a Jeannie and Michael Horowitz Scholarship award to further fuel their academic goals. One of these inspiring Agents of Change is International Psychology doctoral student, Marylin Marquez Orellana of The Chicago School of Professional Psychology.

Marylin is motivated by her immediate family’s traumatic history in El Salvador and their subsequent U.S. immigration experience. She aspires to serve the Latino community in Washington, D.C., and reframe immigration trauma as a human rights issue to ultimately shape U.S. public policy and advance resilience among those impacted. As not only the first in her family to pursue post-graduate education—but the first to earn an undergraduate degree, she strives to make a meaningful difference in these respective areas nationally and internationally through Latino population research.

Born in Washington D.C. as the eldest child of El Salvadorian immigrant parents, Marylin’s exposure to her family’s traumas had a profound impact on her life and desire to make a difference in the community. Her father and mother both fled from El Salvador during the 12-year civil war in the 1970s and 1980s. The fifth of six children born into poverty, Marylin’s father dropped out of school in the second grade to work 15 hour days as a land tender for the wealthy to help support his family. At 15 he enlisted in the El Salvadorian military in an attempt to overcome poverty, where he fought in the Salvadorian and Honduran 100-hour war, and witnessed the 1979 San Salvador Cathedral massacre.  Having learned that guerilla soldiers were actively seeking past and current military soldiers for execution, he fled to the United States. The oldest of nine children born to a well-respected, middle-class family in El Salvador, Marylin’s mother was a freshman in college studying nursing when she was captured by guerilla soldiers and held for three days. Able to escape only with the help of her uncles, who were captains in the Salvadorian military, she was forced to flee the country within 72 hours of her high profile escape with her father, leaving the rest of the family behind.

While these traumas were substantial, Marylin came to learn that her parents’ trauma did not end with their escape from El Salvador. In fact, they were compounded by trauma inflicted during their migration journey to the U.S., and by assimilating to a new way of life in a new country peppered with discrimination and other injustices. A common experience among immigrants from Central America during the 1970’s and 1980’s, this shared history has inspired Marylin through her doctoral program to identify the distinct stages of trauma within cultural contexts to facilitate new therapeutic psychological methodologies.

On her path to fulfilling these goals, Marylin is already working with Central American immigrant families that have suffered war, gang violence, and migration and acculturation-related traumas as a licensed mental health counselor. Her advocacy for the Latino population doesn’t end there, however. On a volunteer basis, Marylin also serves as a Catholic church support group leader for Latino youth dealing with issues related to migration, acculturation, relationships, peer pressure, and social media.

The breadth and depth of Marylin’s commitment and service to others is the hallmark of our shared mission at TCS, and the linchpin of our collective efforts to be The Community Solution in higher education. We’re proud to have her as a vital member of our TCS community, and look forward to watching the meaningful difference she is well-positioned to make in the world!