Hispanic Heritage Month: trailblazer Anita Carmona-Harrison on lifting up her community
A new LISD school carries Carmona-Harrison’s namesake, but her influence extends to generations of students
LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - Anita Carmona-Harrison is a lifelong lover of learning.
Despite experiencing the racism, segregation and abuse of the 1950s public school system, her passion never wavered.
She’s never been afraid to tell it like it is.
“I remember listening to two teachers who were outside who said ‘well I see all these new little Mexican kids from Gua-dah-loopie. They couldn’t even say Guadalupe,” she recalled.
“She is feisty. She’s a little firecracker if you don’t know her. But I love her spirit,” Alma Cunningtubby said.
Cunningtubby, a family friend who also grew up in the Jackson neighborhood near Carmona-Harrison, looked up to her as a kid.
Now she’s the principal of the new school named in her role model’s honor.
“It gives me hope. It gives me hope for my kids. Gives me hope for my grandkids. Gives me hopes for my students,” she said.
“My heart jumps every time I drive by,” Carmona-Harrison said.
It is just one of her many accomplishments in Lubbock. She says her biggest is something we often take for granted.
“Graduating from Lubbock High was a big deal back then because not many Hispanics were graduating,” she explained. “I considered that a real biggie, my granddaddy did too. Because my granddaddy didn’t have an education. My mom had to drop out of third grade when her mama died and left a newborn baby. She had to drop out of Guadalupe to tend to the family.”
The first in her family to receive that degree, she went onto attend Texas Tech University.
She also helped pioneer Lubbock ISD’s first bilingual program.
A far cry from her upbringing, when she wasn’t even allowed to speak her native language in school.
“We were outside at recess and I spoke Spanish and one of my classmates ran inside and told on me,” she said. “My teacher took me to the principal’s room and spanked me with her ruler. I remember I had to lean on a royal typewriter, on a stand, to get spanked. When I went home I was so bruised up.”
Years later, Carmona-Harrison tells KCBD, she stole that teacher’s paddle. And in her many years as an educator she taught Spanish, even just a little, as a way to revive what was lost in those years.
“So many parents decided Spanish was a no-no because so many things that happened like my punishment. They left it completely out of their home life and the kids didn’t get it at all.”
She has never been conventional but has certainly made a positive impact, encouraging all of her students to reach their potential.
Cunningtubby says Carmona-Harrison taught her to be proud of who she is. And it’s something she passes along now to her students.
“Your heritage, where you come from. It’s okay to be you, " she said.
“‘You were my best teacher. You read to us, you talked to us about the importance of education and I was listening,’” Carmona-Harrison says are some of the things her past students tell her.
“That just tells me my mission in life, is accomplished,” she said.
Nowadays, she’s retired and focused on caring for her family.
But as she walks the newly finished hallways of the Anita Carmona-Harrison school, hugging and fist-bumping students, it’s clear the future she inspires is bright.
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