It was the flowers that finally alerted Teresa Ayala to what was going on.
The TCC trustee knew that State Rep. Ramon Romero was preparing a resolution marking her election as board vice president and other accomplishments, but she had no idea when and where it would come.
Ayala hadn’t seen Romero in the audience, and when Board President Conrad Heede called Romero to some forward for the public comment portion of last September’s meeting, she thought only that perhaps he was going to speak about the upcoming bond election. But when he approached the board table holding a bouquet of purple chrysanthemums and placed it in front of Ayala, she began to make the connection.
“I was totally, totally shocked,” she said afterward. “Even then I wasn’t completely sure.”
“I was in the back of the room hiding so that she didn’t see me. I made sure I was tucked in,” said Romero, “So it was really nice to see her expression.”
The Texas House of Representatives resolution saluted Ayala as having been a TCC (then TCJC) student, an adjunct faculty member and a trustee. She is the third Hispanic board member in the 55-year history of the College, following Pete Zepeda and Robyn Winnett. She remembers Zepeda well, having supported his election to the TCJC board and worked with him the summer (after her high school graduation) at the Fort Worth Mexican-American Chamber of Commerce, predecessor to the Hispanic Chamber.
“Who would have known back then, knowing him and the path he took, that at some point I’d be serving in that same capacity,” she said.
Ayala was also cited for her business and civic contributions, including work with the Fort Worth Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the Fort Worth ISD, her position on the Trinity Metro Board of Directors and her recognition with a 2016 Great Women of Texas award from the Fort Worth Business Press. The resolution said Ayala had “demonstrated a commitment to advancing the important mission of Tarrant County College, and she may indeed reflect with pride on her many accomplishments ...”
Nice words, but Ayala wasn’t listening. “I had this myriad of emotions that came over me,” she said, “and to be honest, I wasn’t even hearing all the things he was saying.”
When I had time to reflect on it, it inspired me even more to focus deeply on the needs of those around me.
“I’m a very humble person, and I was humbled by his kindness and thoughtfulness. It meant so much because I admire and respect Ramon so much. He has an unwavering commitment to advocate for the community.”
“We need people like Teresa,” Romero said. “We need people to run, and it all goes back to conversations I had with her when she was still a little bit undecided, and to have her take that leap of faith and now to see her be recognized wasn’t just my idea. It was myself and lots of others in the Latino community.”
Romero is also a former TCJC student, but dropped out after one year. “I’m a state representative,” he quipped, “but Teresa Ayala is what happens when you stay in school.”