By Amanda Alaniz
RIO GRANDE VALLEY, TEXAS – “It is said that a mother’s love is the heart of a family. In my case, my grandmother was my family,” Haimanti Majumder, a UTRGV graduate student, wrote in her winning essay for the 2020-2021 UTRGV Family of the Year Essay Contest.
Majumder, from Bangladesh, is earning her master’s degree in chemistry and works with the photonics and energy research lab. When she began to compose her essay, she said, she wasn’t sure if she was fulfilling what the judges were looking for, but she wanted to share her journey and saw the essay as a way of recognizing the people who inspired her.
“I lost my parents when I was 11 years old, and after that, my grandmother raised me until I was in high school. In my essay, I mentioned how many sacrifices she made. Being an older woman, she had the opportunity to move with her other children, but she didn’t to stay with me and raise me,” she said.
Majumder wanted to recognize and share her grandmother’s story, the person she credits for setting her foundation and helping her become the person she is today. The student made a big personal move when she decided to enroll at UTRGV to help focus her research on renewable energy.
“I am here, in a different country, a whole new world. This was all possible thanks to my grandmother,” she said. “She was every support I needed. I do need it right now, unfortunately, I don’t have her now.”
She said her grandmother, Sadhana Majumder, passed away in 2015, and she was able to take care of her during that time.
Majumder still carries the lessons her grandmother – a college graduate – taught her while she was growing up and the inspiration when it comes to female empowerment.
Her grandmother married very young, started a family, and had to step away from her studies for a while she said. But she made it her priority to get back to studying later in life, she added.
“Women may get inspired by that. An old woman from that rural country, nothing could stop her from gaining her studies, her knowledge,” she said.
She wrote in her essay, “My grandmother used to say, ‘always walk like a strong woman that can never be suppressed by anyone,’ and I think I am the woman she wanted me to be.”
Ashley Guzman, program coordinator for the Center of Student Involvement, said Majumder was ecstatic when she was notified she had won. She mentioned the Family of the Year Essay Contest is a time for students to reflect and thank the people that guided and supported their college journey.
“It’s a time for students to be able to really show their appreciation to their family members by writing it in their essay,” she said. “This is also a time for someone else to recognize the support that families provide. Reading through the essays it’s just so touching.”
Reviewing the essays, she said, everyone gets a small insight into the sacrifices families are willing to make to help their student continue their education.
“It’s one of my favorite days – when I get to read the essays,” she said. “You really get to see the impact that families have on their students.”
The essay contest is held annually by the Office of Student Involvement. A panel of judges reads over the submitted essays and selects a winner. And as the winner, Majumder was awarded $400 in V-Bucks to spend on campus.
Due to COVID-19 protocols, there won’t be an in-person celebration to recognize the winner. However, Guzman said she hopes next year they will be able to hold a celebration.
Majumder is happy she had the opportunity to recognize her grandmother and share her journey so maybe others in similar situations can find a connection. In her winning essay, she writes how she identifies as an orphan now, but she never felt she’s missed out on anything because she had a family while growing up – her grandmother.
“There are a lot of definitions of the family but for me my family, my world was that small home with my grandmother where we used to laugh, cry, sing, and read together. I claim my family is the best family where there was happiness, sorrow, and strength to fight back difficulties,” she wrote.