From Mexico to Kent State Geauga, Paving Her Way to Help Others

Magaly Rios was born in Guanajuato, Mexico. She was 11 years old when she and her family moved to Chardon, Ohio, and she became a United States Citizen in 2016.

Throughout her adolescent years, Magaly spent the majority of her time learning the English language and culture. As she grew older, she realized the importance of spreading public and mental health education to younger generations. 

Rios graduated from Kent State University at Geauga in 2020 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Public Health, but that was not her original plan.

Rios originally started out at Kent State Geauga in the Department of English with a concentration in Teaching as a Second Language. After spending her entire childhood with her English as a second language (ESL) instructor, Rios had wanted to help young kids.
Magaly Rios in front of Kent State sign on graduation day

“I had an ESL teacher named Shannon Sefcik who changed my life,” Rios said. “She is the reason I set out to be an ESL teacher at Kent State Geauga because I wanted to give back to kids learning a new language.”

Rios is a first-generation high school and college student. Despite all her obstacles in life, one thing she never lost was her drive and dedication.

During her sophomore year, she was having second thoughts about whether the school was the right choice for her. She could not see herself being an ESL teacher long-term.

Because of her drive, she would not let herself drop out, so she became more involved in finding her true passion.

Rios changed the course of her college journey by taking exploratory classes and joining different clubs. After taking a public health course, she discovered a new, driving passion.

“It was everything I wanted to do,” Rios said. “I could still help people while also being out in the public to help people of all ages, not just kids.”

Another reason Rios chose this degree was because it was fully online. Rios worked two jobs in college: as a hostess at a local restaurant and a part-time job at the Chardon Senior Center. It was very important for her to keep her jobs and finish her degree.

In the meantime, Rios tried to stay as active as she could at the university. She joined the student government club where she would meet Rae Ann Byers, an account clerk at Kent State Geauga, and together, they created the Wellness Club.

Rios’ main motivation to start the wellness club was to break the stigma that mental health was something you shouldn’t talk about in public.

The Wellness Club focused on a lot of different topics, such as working with WomanSafe, a non-profit domestic violence center, and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), an organization providing resources to anyone concerned about mental illnesses and the treatment of mental illness.

While at Kent State Geauga, the connections Rios made with the professors and staff made a huge difference in her own mental health journey throughout college.

“I was petrified to take an English grammar course when I got to college,” Rios said. “Molly Mokros and Bonnie Shaker worked with me and were so patient when I would struggle.”

Since English is Rios’ second language, Molly Mokros, a lecturer in the Department of English at Kent State Geauga, continually advised Rios to implement grammar techniques not only in class, but also while texting her friends.

Rios mentioned that Kent State Geauga felt like a second home. She loved the small class sizes and appreciated the connections she made with every faculty member and student. She advises any and all students to never give up on their dreams and work as hard as they can to reach them.

Rios would like to thank her family, Rae Ann Byers, Donna Holcomb, and Valerie Rutherford for all their support during her college career at Kent State University.

Rios is now working at Geauga Public Health as a Health Educator.

For more information about Kent State Geauga, visit

POSTED: Monday, May 17, 2021 - 8:50am
UPDATED: Tuesday, May 18, 2021 - 3:29pm
Ellie Dundics