Mercedes Guerra de Carreño
Mercy arrived in Miami in late 1961 with little more than a teaching degree from the University of Havana and the clothes on her back. Those early years in exile were very hard. While struggling to support herself and two children by working a number of menial jobs, Mercy doggedly pursued an academic career in hopes of improving her employment future, and with the help of student loans and scholarships eventually earned a master’s degree in library science from the University of Miami in the early 1970s. Equipped with these credentials, Mercy readily obtained a permanent position as an elementary school librarian, a post she held until her retirement from the public school system two decades later.
Always industrious and having a strong intellectual bent, Grandma Mercy could not stay retired for long. For the next 15 years she kept her librarian skills honed at a private school; became part-time secretary for a well-known author, whom she helped with research, fact checking, and manuscript editing; and traveled extensively in Europe for museum visits. It was during this period that Mercy began to take continuing education courses at Florida International University, where she studied the subjects that had always interested and moved her—art history, art appreciation, drawing, oil and watercolor painting, and anything concerning classical music, which she deeply loved. For Mercy these classes were more than simply a way to pass the time: in each course she found a challenge, a purpose, and personal fulfillment.
Mercy was a lifelong student. Her love of learning, need to stay busy, and clear understanding that anything worth having is worth the effort compelled her not only to succeed in school, but also gave her the capacity to enjoy the academic experience and reap the benefits of a higher education. Despite the many hardships, family responsibilities, and logistic difficulties of work-school-home juggling, Mercy was able to become meaningfully employed and financially independent because of her decision to attend college as a mature adult. To her children and grandchildren she is an enduring role model of strength, dedication, and perseverance.
In honor of her life and all she accomplished, we invite women who have delayed their academic careers to apply for this scholarship and follow Grandma Mercy’s example.