A mother’s love knows no bounds

Outstanding Parent Award given to Reina Alvarez for her dedication to her sons

“Goodnight, don’t stay up too late.”

Most children around the U.S. have heard this parental phrase more times than they can count.

But Reina Alvarez’s sons never heard it because she would stay up with them until all their work was done, encouraging them to keep going.

“I didn’t feel good about being able to rest and go sleep knowing that my kids were still trying to work hard,” Reina Alvarez said.

That is one reason why Reina Alvarez is Liberty University’s Outstanding Parent of 2016.

AWARD — Reina Alvarez (middle) was given the Outstanding Parent Award after her son Jesse (right) nominated her. Photo Credit: Kevin Manguiob

AWARD — Reina Alvarez (middle) was given the Outstanding Parent Award after her son Jesse (right) nominated her. Photo Credit: Kevin Manguiob

Jesse Alvarez, a sophomore studying exercise science, was one of nearly 200 students to submit an essay for Liberty’s 2016 Outstanding Parent Essay Contest, held each year by the Parent and Family Connections office to recognize deserving Liberty parents.

Reina Alvarez received the award at the Family Welcome Reception, which was held the same day as her birthday.

“I’m really just surprised any of this happened,” Jesse Alvarez said. “I just remember I first saw the essay (contest announcement), it was hanging up on the wall, and that was actually the weekend I had the most homework. … And then something just told me, ‘You have to write that essay.’ I was just thinking, ‘I know I have an outstanding mom.’”

Reina Alvarez grew up in El Salvador, but emigrated to the U.S., where she financially supported Jesse Alvarez, 19, and his brother Santos Alvarez, 21.

Due to financial problems, she was unable to get an education and struggled to find a job.

“Seventeen years I worked at Burger King,” Reina Alvarez said. “Now I work at a hotel.”

When Jesse Alvarez was just a child, his father died, leaving Reina Alvarez to support the family by herself.

But she still served others, and together the family would visit church members and visitors when they were sick.

“She takes a lot out of her time just to help out our church,” Jesse Alvarez said. “She’s been taking care of the infants for our church ever since I was born.”

Jesse Alvarez said that because of her example, he joined the chorus, music and church cleanup groups and became an assistant youth group leader.

“She was always just trying to show me and my brother a good testimony,” Jesse Alvarez said. “She really taught us to play a role in the church.”

She also encouraged her sons in sports, paying for uniforms or anything else they needed, and coming to their races.

Jesse Alvarez participated in track, cross-country and wrestling.

“She would only work part time because she wanted to actually spend time with me and my brother as well,” Jesse Alvarez said.

But he spoke most highly of his mother’s faith in God during difficult times when her husband died, and more recently when she was diagnosed with leukemia
last summer.

“Trying to understand how God could let a humble, widowed mother be diagnosed with leukemia was difficult,” Jesse Alvarez said. “But even though she was going through leukemia, she was still strong.

She never blamed God for anything, and she just kept giving him thanks and just said everything was his will.

It was really just shocking to me to see, ‘Wow, that’s my mother,’ that she’s actually this strong in the Word.”

Reina Alvarez said her strength came from God and reading the Bible.

She especially clung to the story of Job, saying that even though circumstances were not going well for him, he still stayed firm in God’s Word.

“I was very sad, but I knew that God was watching over me, so that gave me peace in my heart,” Reina Alvarez said. “When the doctor told me I didn’t have leukemia anymore, I cried, but I cried of happiness.”

Jesse Alvarez said his mother inspired him to work hard and never give up, which he applies to his academic work at Liberty.

Now that he is not playing a sport, Jesse Alvarez said he also works part time as a shoe sales assistant at Finish Line in the nearby River Ridge Mall.

“She didn’t want me to get a job during college,” Jesse Alvarez said. “She just wanted (me) to focus on studying. But out of my own will I decided I was going to get a part-time job because I feel like it helps to manage my time.”

Reina Alvarez said she wanted her sons to get a good education so they would not experience her struggles.

“I am happy with God for the kids that he gave me and that they’re making an effort,” Reina Alvarez said.

Operations Assistant Jessica Young, who coordinated the event for the Parent and Family Connections office, said that the way Jesse Alvarez treats his mother — more so even than the speech itself —impacted her.

She told of how he had helped his mother onto the stage before reading his essay, and how afterwards he had given her a hug and a kiss on the forehead.

“I thought it was so sweet how caring he’s been … towards his mother,” Young said. “He seems to really respect her. He seems to be really appreciative of her. … I like that Jesse’s not just saying it, he’s showing it.”

Jesse Alvarez read his essay in Spanish so that his mother could understand it better.

Tony Huffer, one of the Liberty parents in the audience, said Jesse Alvarez’s appreciation for his mother was evident.

Having traveled to South America, to Peru and Ecuador for short-term missions, Huffer said he knew how tight-knit the family unit is in South American culture.

“I think we can learn from that dedication to each other, and loyalty to each other and support for each other,” Huffer said. “It’s a wonderful thing to see the family being strong.”

PORS is a news reporter.

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