From Segundo to Notre Dame and back to Texas

The Texas Story Project.

Tom Fraire originally lived in El Paso, Texas where he was raised in the Segundo Barrio. The Segundo Barrio is one of the most impoverished places in the United States. His family then moved to Central El Paso where he grew up in a three-bedroom house and lived with 7 family members. Throughout his childhood, he shared rooms with his siblings and wore hand-me-down clothes.

In my interview with him, he recalled his father taking them once a month to Church’s Chicken and that being the only time they went out. Growing up, though, he said he felt they always had enough and he grew up in a very loving environment with both of his parents who always tried to make sure he had everything he needed.

From a young age, the educators in Tom’s life had an impact on him that made him want to be better and pursue more out of his life. He highlighted Mr. Diaz as one of the first educators ever to tell him he was going to go to college and get out of El Paso. School wasn’t easy for Tom growing up though. He recalled one day walking into the locker room of his school and running into a gang. One of the cholos gave him the option to either join the gang or fight his way out of the locker room. Tom refused to join and fought his way out of the locker room and was chased all the way home. This was a rude awakening for young Tom and it was in that moment that he began to listen to the educators around him and started to take school more seriously because he knew getting an education was the only way he would get out of the neighborhood he grew up in.

In high school, Tom was a part of National Honor Society, Student Body President, and a three-sport athlete. Despite all of that, he was still subjected to a very violent environment of school shootings, gang fights, and race riots. When it was time to apply to colleges, he applied to the University of Texas at El Paso and received a full ride. But his teacher Mr. Vanhoose urged him to apply to other schools because he saw the potential he had and how hard he had worked in high school to settle for a school. After being accepted in many schools he finally decided to leave home and attend the University of Notre Dame. All these years of fighting and studying had finally paid off and he was finally going to leave El Paso.

College was anything but a cakewalk for Tom though. He received many phone calls from people calling to harass him using racial slurs and telling him to go home to Mexico. His first semester was extremely hard due to the fact that his first language was Spanish. The language barrier made adapting to school even harder for him. A defining moment for Tom was when he received word that his grandfather had passed away, shortly after that he received word that his mom had a stroke. Tom was broken and didn’t want to attend Notre Dame anymore. If it weren’t for the support system of friends he found there, he probably would’ve moved back to El Paso.

Notre Dame gave him the opportunity to see the country, and travel to places he had never gone to growing up. He recalled going on road trips to visit his friends’ families and going to see Notre Dame play football around the country. To this day he feels that Notre Dame helped shape him into the man he is today. Tom Fraire graduated from Notre Dame in 1995, with a degree in Math and a concentration in business.

Tom Fraire became an educator after graduating and received a master's degree at the University of Texas at Arlington in 2003. He has been an educator for 23 years now and is currently the Principal at Marine Creek Early College, in Fort Worth, Texas. His goal as an educator is to be a role model for students and push them to reach their fullest potential as educators like Mr. Vanhoose, and Mr. Diaz did for him.

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