GOOD NEWS: Midland College inspires confidence in student’s craftAlumna Sonia Castillo overcomes feelings of inadequacy through her education and writing

MIDLAND “The Beauty of Aging in a Mexican Home” is an article going viral in Midland. Midland College alumna Sonia Castillo wrote it. The piece tells the story of Castillo’s ailing great-grandparents living with her and her family. At first Castillo was ashamed, but she has grown to treasure and long for the memories of their time together.
“Amá (Mom) and Apá (Dad) were living in our den,” wrote Castillo. “They were odd, smelled like Vicks smothered mothballs, and tried to boss me around… I kept them a secret. As I aged, I regretted my secret and longed for their annoyances.”
Castillo graduated from MC in 1999 with an associate of art degree. Her academic story is all about perseverance. Low scores on her state tests placed her in remedial reading and writing classes in middle school and early high school, but she worked hard and catapulted herself into AP English her junior year. She looked to MC to continue to inspire her confidence.
“When I started MC, I was completely unaware that I had the ability to write until I took a class with Dr. William Feeler,” Castillo said. “He gave me amazing feedback. He made me believe I had the necessary skills and his push gave me the confidence I so desperately needed to continue to pursue my education. If I did not have the professors I had at MC I do not think I would have gone on to graduate from Texas Tech. I was a novice when I started MC; I did not even know how to study. Midland College taught me how to be successful. Faculty and staff there are a shining example of fostering a young mind.”
“Sonia was one of those special students I have been fortunate to see in transition from lacking confidence to being on fire,” Dr. Feeler said. “She was able to take experiences from her personal life and transform them into fiction that was understood by all.”
Castillo left her mark on the MC campus with her writing. She won third place for her poem “The Companion.” That piece was written about her grandfather. She wrote about the period of time after he lost his wife, painting a picture of him sitting outside alone on the porch of their corner house watching traffic. Her cat would follow him, curl up around his feet, then jump up to sit with him. Castillo also won an honorable mention for her short story “Awake to Pass.” That piece was about the idea of having to attend her grandfather’s funeral. She wrote it as a floating omniscient presence listening to everybody’s thoughts.
“My grandparents inspired me in so many ways,” Castillo said. “When you are young, you do not even understand all the thoughts you have in your head, how everything affects your decision making, and where you are going in life. I realize now my grandparents had such an impact on my life. They pushed me in the right direction, and MC took care of me from there. My grandfather was so proud of me when I came to MC. I would leave to go to class, and he would pull out his wallet and give me $5 ‘for gas’ even though I lived just down the street. He just wanted to say ‘I am here for you.’ He knew I was working hard.”
Castillo’s professors at MC could also see she was working hard and they helped her flourish. They found national writing competitions offering scholarships so she could send in her poetry and non-fiction for consideration. Every little award helped.
“I had to figure out a way to pay for school myself,” Castillo said. “I worked full-time at Target, and I kept my grades up to continue receiving the Abell Hanger Scholarship (now the Legacy Scholarship).”
Castillo went on to teach gifted courses at Goddard after teaching for a decade in Austin. She says her professors at MC were her motivation.
“I realize now I felt inadequate when it came to education,” Castillo said. “Professors at MC showed me it just takes a little seed of confidence, and a student can turn their talents into something big. Confidence from an instructor can change your life. It changed the course of mine. I became a teacher for the craft of teaching because I had experienced its power at MC.”
Castillo has dabbled in writing fiction, but she finds her home in literary non-fiction.
“I perfected the art of storytelling as a teacher,” Castillo said. “I found the best way to relate to my students was to make personal connections so a lot of my anecdotes were embellished real-life stories. It is really easy for me to let people into my memories and what I have experienced.”
Castillo has powerful advice for young writers: “Find inspiration in your life to use for your pieces. It can be a daunting process because there are points of shame in our decisions in life. If I had written ‘The Beauty of Aging in a Mexican Home’ when I was 18, I do not think it would have come across the same because I was ashamed. You have to approach all moments in your life with truth. Some people will ‘get it’ and some people will not. The important thing is you get your experiences out there. You can always work on syntax and punctuation; however, when it comes to your experiences, truly tap in and do not be scared. Writing is very freeing. Use it as a process to get through whatever you are going through in life. Find mentors who will push you and critique your work. You do not have to look any further than MC.”