Not All Heroes Wear Capes: The Journey of Vanessa Valladares

Written by: Emma Baldwin

Vanessa Valladares is a junior at OKWU through the Adult and Graduate Studies program. She is currently pursuing her Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration with an emphasis in Management. She first started school as an Accounting major because she had a “knack for it,” saying that she “finds accounting satisfying.” However, due to a lack of job options within the accounting field, she switched to Business Administration.

Vanessa, born in Honduras, moved to America with her family when she was one. Vanessa lived in Chicago, Illinois, until she was about ten years old; moved to California, living there as a teenager; and eventually moved to Bartlesville with her family. The Valladares’s were invited to a local church, Iglesia Fe, Esperanza, y Amor (Church of Faith, Hope, and Love), by the pastor’s daughter, who worked at the business they started. Vanessa explained how, through this invitation, she, her mother, and two sisters came to know Christ. Because of her faith experience, Vanessa said, “Bartlesville holds a very special place in our hearts.”

Vanessa and her family moved back to California for family matters, though they came back to Bartlesville shortly thereafter. “The first people that were waiting for us at our house were our pastor’s family,” Vanessa told me. She explained how her mom had told the pastor’s wife before they moved that the Valladares’s would only be gone for a year, and “sure enough, a year passed, and we were back.” Vanessa’s family hasn’t left Bartlesville since.

In this way, Vanessa planted her roots in Bartlesville before enrolling at OKWU. She explained to me how she and her mom and sister began to search for jobs. “My little sister was three at the time. So, we would drop her off at Headstart and my older sister, my mom, and I would just sit at the park, thinking, ‘What are we going to do?’” While her mom and sister started different jobs, Vanessa was still searching. She explained how she started a daycare to babysit the many children in her church. “If we Hispanics are known for one thing, it’s for popping out kids like crazy,” she said and laughed.

Eventually, however, she began to work with Buildings and Grounds here at OKWU upon the recommendation of one of the women in her church. Vanessa said, “I️ have my interview…, I️ walk out, I️ get home, and it was like ten minutes later. They call me and say, ‘You have a job!’ And I’ve been here five years now.” Vanessa began working part-time with B&G, eventually moving to working full-time.

After working with B&G for two years, Vanessa earned the benefit of attending OKWU as a student for free. Vanessa says, “2016 came, and Samantha Peterson comes up to me and asks, ‘So when are you going to come to my office?’ I️ told her, ‘I don’t know,’ and she said, ‘How about this? I need you in my office at ten o’clock tomorrow.’” She explained how Samantha Peterson encouraged her to enroll despite Vanessa’s own hesitation. Having graduated high school nine years before, Vanessa was wary to start up school again. She eventually was convinced, however, and she told me how quickly time has flown since.

Vanessa gave me two reasons for working full-time with B&G. The first is very practical. She told me she works here to help save up money for her mom so that her mom will not have to work as she gets older and can instead spend time with her grandchildren. “You know what, Mom? I’m doing this for us,” she told me. “That’s my purpose. With God, there’s no coincidence, there’s always purposes. There’s no coincidence that I’m working here. There’s a purpose. Little by little, He’s revealing that purpose to me.”

The other reason, she explained, is so that she can practice humility and serve the people around her, just as Jesus serves. Vanessa said, “This job is very humbling. It takes a servant’s heart to do this job, and that’s what we’re here for. We’re here to serve. That’s why Jesus was here. He said, ‘I came to serve, not to be served.’ That’s what God has called us to do—to serve others.” Not all heroes wear capes—sometimes they wear gloves and carry a broom.

Along the way, Vanessa has also learned some profound life lessons. She says, “Stay humble—very humble, serve others, and just be a servant. Not a lot of people have that ability to serve others, especially now in society. Everything is me, me, me, and it’s not supposed to be like that. Jesus wasn’t like that. He put others before Himself. I️ hope, one day, everyone realizes that. If it was like that, the world would be so much better.”

I️ asked Vanessa what one of her favorite things about OKWU is. She replied, “The friendliness on campus. The OKWU community is like a family. You hardly find that nowadays, as well as the companionship and the love that we all have for God. We don’t have to hide our beliefs out here because everyone loves God here. You can feel the presence of the Holy Spirit.”

Vanessa plays bass guitar for her church’s worship band and enjoys spending time with her family and friends. She and her mom often open their home to the kids in her youth group, wanting to give them a sort of home away from home. Vanessa hopes to stay in Bartlesville and, if possible, continue to work at OKWU, though maybe with a different branch of the school. However, she is remaining flexible. She told me, “If God opens a door somewhere else, I’ll take it too.”

When asked if there is something about her that people wouldn’t necessarily expect, Vanessa responded, “I️ can be very shy and awkward. If you see me walking around school, I’m kind of quiet, but I’m not usually like that. I’m not like that whatsoever. I’m a crazy person…but in a good way. I’m super loud and funny. At church, I️ just let it go. The people here don’t know what happens off campus. My mom tells me, ‘I don’t even know how we’re related.’” Vanessa told me that she recently took a test that revealed her top five strengths. She said that the main one she possesses is positivity. “Before Christ, I never considered myself a positive person. My mom was like, ‘You’re so negative and antisocial.’ But when God came in, He changed that into joy, and now I️ am so full of happiness. Life’s too short to be bitter. Just be humorous, be crazy. You only live once…as long as you’re doing it in a good way. Don’t go crazy, but just live life. Enjoy it. Love it.”

When asked what final piece of advice she would like to share, Vanessa replied, “Stay humble. God loves a humble heart. He says that He looks away from the people that are over-righteous, but He looks at a person with a humble heart. He looks within you. He doesn’t see your physical appearance. That does not matter to God. What matters to God is what’s in your heart. Stay humble and serve because we are called to do what Jesus did. Jesus said, ‘I’m here to serve.’ If we want to be like Jesus, we need to serve. Be a willing servant. Stay humble and serve.”