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Alumni Spotlight: Mary Angelii Rios '87

Apr 22, 2013

Mary Angelii Rios '87 earned her bachelor of arts and master of arts in communicative disorders from Pacific with high honors. She has also earned the Clinical Rehabilitative Services Credential and Multiple Subject Credential. Rios furthered her studies in early childhood special education by earning certification California State University, San Jose. After developing an interest in augmentative/alternative communication (AAC), Rios participated in a grant program at San Francisco State University and completed certification in AAC. Rios is a speech-language specialist in the New Haven Unified School District in Union City, CA.

Raised in a home with a strong Christian faith, Rios' parents, who grew up underprivileged, taught her the value of giving back her talents, gifts, education, and skills. They demonstrated the importance of helping people in need. Rios explains, "I can make a difference in the life of a child and his or her family, that I can have a hand in improving someone's quality of life by giving them a "voice" or way to communicate, I am motivated to continue speech and language therapy in my community."

While attending Pacific, Rios lived in a dorm for international students. Her fondest memories are time spent with roommates, enjoying student life, meeting people in the Stockton Community-especially the church she attended. "I miss being at UOP where I could focus my mind, my hours, my energy on learning," says Rios. She went on to explain, "All the faculty were encouraging. I was inspired and challenged by each and every one. Smiling faces that come to mind when I think of my department are Dr. Robert Hanyak '79 and Simalee Stubblefield-Smith '83 who continue to be leaders at Pacific."

"My first thought was to study child psychology." Mary explains about her choice of major. "One day, a peer invited me to take a tour of the other side of the psychology building which was the Communicative Disorders Department. My interest peeked following observations and talking to a faculty member. One course hooked me and I could visualize my future career."

Mary's current work focus is with preschoolers who are non-verbal and /or challenged with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). In addition to years of experience in the public school system, her training in AAC and early intervention influence Mary's work with this special population. Mary notes, "I apply and share my knowledge of AAC to create and develop materials and activities using no, low, and mid tech tools and devices and early learning software to enhance the communication of my preschool students. Every week, along with my interdisciplinary team, I am meeting preschoolers and their families to identify needs across developmental areas. I have a strong interest in collaboration and in parent education. While progress may be slow at times or in small steps, I celebrate when I have been able to discover a way for a child to communicate, to help a child be understood and to understand the world around him, and make a positive difference in his life."

Mary credits her mother as a constant source of inspiration. Her mother was the seventh child of fourteen children, and was discouraged from going to college. Mrs. Angelii had dreams of attending Pacific to become a pharmacist. "Her work ethic and organization skills pulled us out of social assistance. Taking class after class, earning certificates, she climbed the career ladder in city government and made resources possible for me to complete my studies at UOP. From my early years, she supported me and became my teacher even when a first grade teacher told her I would never learn how to read! Her belief in me contributes to my career success!" exclaims Mary.

Spending time with her family is a priority. Mary's twins, Tayla and John will enter middle school next year and eldest Estelle will enter high school. Mary is happily married to Zeke, who works in sales, is a softball coach, a musician, worship leader and minister in our church. As adoptive parents, they enthusiastically support adoption. "Our twins are an answer to prayer!" Mary declares. Mary also serves as the Children's Ministry Director at her church in Union City.

Mary's daughter Estelle plays softball on a traveling team. "We stop by UOP on the way to and from tournaments." Mary mentioned. Mary will soon be a proud Tiger auntie, "My niece was just accepted by UOP for Fall 2013!" she announced!

By: Susan Webster, Development Officer, Physical Therapy and Speech-Language Pathology