From Tijuana to Lubbock, this new Red Raider is dancing into the limelight.
Melissa Casillas' heart was set on attending Texas Tech University, but her parents weren't so sure.
After spending a summer at The Joffrey Ballet in New York City, the young dancer set her sights on studying dance at the collegiate level.
“I met friends at Joffrey who were from Texas Tech's School of Theatre & Dance,” Casillas said. “I really wanted to attend Texas Tech after meeting those students.”
But a move from her hometown of Tijuana, Mexico to West Texas was a transition her family had doubts about. Due to perceptions of recent racial strife, Casillas' parents worried for their daughter's well-being in the American South.
Feeling discouraged, Casillas turned to Instagram one night, scrolling through the J.T. & Margaret Talkington College of Visual & Performing Arts' profile. That's when she noticed an announcement that caught her by surprise.
“The college had uploaded a video announcing its new dean, Martin Camacho,” Casillas said. “He was well-spoken and played piano beautifully, but what caught my attention was that he was Mexican.”
Casillas sprinted into the next room, loudly exclaiming, “Look, he's Mexican!”
Confused, her parents asked her what she was talking about. She proceeded to show them the video.
“They were totally sold,” Casillas said.
Seeing someone from a Mexican background in a leadership position alleviated the concerns Casillas' parents had.
“Not only did it sell my parents on Texas Tech, but it meant a lot to me too,” Casillas said. “Seeing someone in a position of power that looks like you is empowering.”
Casillas is now at Texas Tech earning a bachelor's of art in dance. To see what the experience has been like so far, view her video here.