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Refugio High counselor becomes school's first woman principal

By JR Ortega
May 26, 2014 at 12:26 a.m.
Updated May 27, 2014 at 12:27 a.m.

Melissa Gonzales has been named Refugio High School principal for the 2014-15 school year.

REFUGIO - Melissa Gonzales didn't know she would be the first female principal at Refugio High School when she was recently promoted.

Gonzales, who has been with the Refugio school district for 12 years - 10 years as high school counselor - will start as principal July 1.

"That's how blind I am to things like that; I didn't even realize," she said.

Gonzales wants to believe society has moved past having "first" this and "first" that, she said. Still, she takes pride in it and hopes future generations understand that anything is possible.

She succeeds Todd Deaver, who accepted a Poth school district principal position.

The transition has been smooth, Gonzales said, though the end of the year tends to be hectic with graduation and preparation for the following school year. Plus, Gonzales is working in two capacities while making the switch.

"I got to the point where I thought I had the experience with how schools operate," said Gonzales, who grew up in Austwell. "I felt I could be effective in that role, and I'm ready for the new challenge."

Gonzales' passion for education is something learned, but more than anything, it's almost innate.

She remembers sitting atop her father's lap as a little girl, driving through his hometown of Edinburg.

They would drive down the Rio Grande Valley plains, making their way through the heart of downtown Edinburg.

It was there, on more than just one occasion, that her father would point out the window toward the University of Texas-Pan American - now University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley.

"That's where you're going to school," he'd say as the passed by the growing university.

College was never a question. It was an expectation, and Gonzales said she is thankful for that.

"I never even thought that I couldn't accomplish anything," she said, her eyes welling with tears. "My parents never limited me like that. They led me to believe that I could do whatever."

Now, she's broken a barrier at the school.

Her personality and drive is one reason Gonzales will make a great principal, Deaver said.

"She's been around me enough," he said, smiling. "It's not the day-to-day operations of the school that she's going to have to adjust to, it's the additional duties."

Though excited to become principal, Gonzales will miss her years as counselor.

As counselor, she's been able to bring more equity and opportunities to all students. Last year, the school's 51 graduates earned more than $500,000 in scholarships.

"I feel passionate about what I've done in here," she said. "But I'm passionate about education, and I love kids, and I think it's going to be a great opportunity to continue that service. I'm definitely glad I didn't have to go somewhere else."

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