Student Spotlight: Marlina Serratos

Civil Servant

She’s a full-time student, but that doesn’t stop Marlina Serratos from serving her community as a city councilor in her hometown of Irrigon

By Sean Patterson

Marlina Serratos

Upon learning about George Fox, Marlina Serratos knew it was the place for her. But before she could begin life in Newberg she had to take care of business at home – and, in the process, discovered a way she could make a difference in her community.

When Serratos was in high school her dad purchased property and had to move their manufactured home in Irrigon, Oregon. With her mother previously forced to return to her native country of Mexico due to immigration issues and her dad tied up with work, Serratos stepped up to handle all the paperwork, resulting in a friendship with the city manager. During one conversation with him, she mentioned offhandedly that she wished she could do something to help the city. His response: “Run for city council.”

“At first, I was like, ‘What is that?’” says Serratos, a sophomore elementary education major. “So, I decided to fill out the paperwork. Then, next thing I know, I get a text from my friend saying my name was on the ballot. I had no idea. I was thinking there had to be some kind of approval process. But there I was, on the ballot, so I voted for myself.”

The community of Irrigon voted for her as well, electing an 18-year-old high school senior to represent them in city business.

For Serratos, the motivation to serve stemmed from her own experience. “With all the paperwork I had to do for our move, I got to thinking, ‘If I’m in this situation and I’m bilingual, just imagine someone who is not bilingual facing this situation. This would be so hard for them.’ With so many Hispanics in our community, the council needed someone there to represent them, to help explain things to them. That’s why I’m there. I’m there for them.”

Upon getting elected, Serratos faced a dilemma: How could she attend school in Newberg and still serve on the council? “I figured then I’d just go to community college, but my high school counselor wasn’t having it. She told me to apply to George Fox, to pursue my dream of going to a university. She helped me fill out the paperwork and even came to Newberg to drop me off.”

Despite moving to Newberg, Serratos was still considered a member of the Irrigon community and stood by her commitment to attend council meetings. During the 2017-18 academic year, she only missed one meeting – because of poor weather in February – but otherwise faithfully made the three-and-a-half-hour, 210-mile drive each month to the small town just west of Hermiston.

College life hasn’t been easy, and she struggled academically her first semester. “All I know how to be is an adult,” says Serratos, a first-generation college student who, at 13, had to take on the role of mom to her 8-year-old sister when their mother had to return to Mexico. “Give me paperwork and I know how to fill it out for you. Give me a bill and I know how to pay it. But give me a test where you want me to express my knowledge? I don’t know how to do that.”

She persevered, thanks in no small part to the encouragement she received from her professors and peers, particularly her roommate Kylie.

“Kylie is so wonderful,” Serratos says. “She’s always telling me, ‘God put you here for a reason.’ And I feel like George Fox has opened my connection with God, too, as well as new doors and new opportunities. But most of all it has strengthened that connection with me and God, and all I can say is, ‘Thank you.’”

Ultimately, upon earning her degree, Serratos would like to teach in the same elementary school she attended. “I want to go home. Home has given me a lot of opportunities and opened so many doors. I’d like to give back to that place, to teach the children of that community. That’s my dream job.”