EDITOR DANIEL CLIFTON
Getting an education and going to college were important to Soor-el Puga’s parents for their eight children, all first-generation Americans.
“It was something our parents wanted us to fulfill,” said the director of Marble Falls Independent School District’s bilingual/English as a second language programs. “My dad went to technical school, where he learned to be a carpenter, and became a certified carpenter. And his mom, my grandma, was a teacher in Mexico.”
But it wasn’t easy for the Puga children, especially Soor-el’s older siblings, who moved to the United States when they were in middle school and high school. Puga was born in the United States and learned English growing up, but his brothers and sisters had to learn it while also navigating a new country and school.
It was challenging.
Soor-el’s older brother, Jose Arturo Puga, set his sights on college, even though some people told him to get a job instead. However, Jose understood the importance of an education.
He would go to the local library, practice his English, and study. This caught the attention of a professor, who approached Jose to ask what he was doing. After Jose explained, the professor told Jorge about community colleges, which could lead to a university.
That chance meeting changed Jose’s life and became the basis of his children’s book “The Blue Horse: Who Wanted to Go to College!”
Soor-el provided the illustrations for it. It’s written in English and Spanish.
“It’s kind of an autobiography about my brother’s and my life — especially my brother’s — about growing up and going college,” Soor-el said.
When he held the published book in his hands for the first time, the feelings were hard to explain.
“’Oh, wow!’” Soor-el said. “That’s all I could say.”
The big moment, however, came when Soor-el and Jose visited their parents in South Texas to show them the book. In it, the Blue Horse reads a letter to his parents about going to college, something Jose actually did.
“It was so amazing to see my parents as they read that,” Soor-el said. “It was very exciting to share it with our parents for the first time.”
Jose and Soor-el both not only completed college, they also went into the education fields. In fact, all of Soor-el’s siblings earned college degrees.
Jose also served as an officer in the U.S. Army for 21 years and earned master’s and doctoral degrees. Both Soor-el, who also holds a master’s degree, and Jose have been school principals: Soor-el at the elementary level in Hays Consolidated Independent School District and Jose as a middle school principal for the same district.
Jose is now a professor at Texas Lutheran University in Seguin.
Soor-el reads the book to MFISD students as often as he can. And while it’s nice to have a published book under his belt, Soor-el said the most important thing is it gets kids talking about a secondary education.
“We want to encourage students to follow their dreams, and in the case of the Blue Horse, it was to go to college,” Soor-el said.
The big question Soor-el gets from students is “What happens next to the Blue Horse?”
Could there be another book, maybe a series?
Soor-el shrugged and laughed, not quite sure what to say, but he isn’t closing the chapter on that.
The book is available in all MFISD elementary school libraries and at Amazon.com in hardback, softcover and e-reader editions.