Mariela Nuñez-Janes' story is all about helping migrant and Latino youth tell theirs.
That's one reason the associate professor of anthropology won the UNT Foundation's 2017 Community Engagement award, which she received at UNT's Salute to Faculty Excellence award ceremony.
Nuñez-Janes — a Venezuelan native who joined the UNT faculty in 2003 after earning her master's and doctorate from the University of New Mexico — was recognized for her research addressing the educational and social injustices young Latinos often face.
"I came to the U.S. at age 13, so I went through the educational system in great part here in the U.S.," she says. "That experience raised a lot of questions for me. As an undergraduate, I found anthropology and realized those experiences had a name."
As a professor, Nuñez-Janes began working on various projects — including "IamWe," a digital storytelling program that paired UNT students with Denton High School students — to help foster self-empowerment in the youth she researches.
She also collaborates with the North Texas Dream Team, a youth-led organization that focuses on improving educational opportunities for undocumented students. In the years to come, she says she wants to continue to help migrant and Latino youth pursue their goals without fear.
"I take my responsibility very seriously," Nuñez-Janes says. "I want to be able to use the knowledge I have, and the little power I have, to help them open doors to share their stories."