By Cheryl Hall The Dallas Morning News
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Talk about Grit! Margarita Aguirre is the first person on either side of her immediate family to go to college. After receiving her Master's degree in architecture, Aguirre (a baseball fanatic) is now fulfilling her lifelong dream of helping to build the new home of her beloved Texas Rangers.
On opening day at Globe Life Park, Margarita Aguirre showed Texas Rangers fans to their seats like the trained pro she is.
This is her seventh season as a Rangers usher and her fourth working Section 209 on the third-base side.
But this isn't just a $9-an-hour side hustle.
The 29-year-old, first-generation Latina American is also living her dream as a member of the HKS team that's designing Globe Life Field, the Rangers' new $1.2 billion home.
"Being part of the Rangers (ushering) team, I get a behind-the-scenes view into the employees' day-to-day lives as well as a first-hand look at what fans do and don't like," she says.
What has she learned from her ballpark R&D?
Thanks to Aguirre's input, Globe Life Field will have employee break rooms with lockers on every level so that workers don't have to go to the basement to stash their things and eat their meals.
And fans going for food and beverages in the main concourse will still have sight lines to the game.
Aguirre spends three days a week working at the job site for the new stadium.
"This being my first big project out of school is just unbelievable. It's part of my whole pinch-me moment, you know?" she says.
"She's very talented," says Mark Williams, HKS principal and head of its sports division. "She wants to learn. ... We just keep feeding her more and more responsibility, broadening her role. ... It's incredible."
Aguirre has known since she was 12 that she wanted to design sports facilities for HKS Inc. in Dallas.
Yes, you read that right.
Aguirre's parents, Irma and Reynaldo, immigrated separately from civil-war-torn El Salvador to California in the 1980s. They met, married and Margarita was born in 1989. The family moved to Irving when Margarita was 4.
Every year, the family visits relatives in El Salvador. When Margarita was 10 and about to enter the fifth grade, her mother's cousin, whom Margarita calls her aunt, introduced her to floor plans, drawings, models and AutoCad software.
Margarita was smitten.
Two years later, the middle-schooler toured HKS as part of a summertime career program.
She saw stadium seats, architectural drawings and models of stadiums, ballparks and arenas. "It was another oh-my-gosh, a-ha moment. 'This is what an architecture firm does,' " Aguirre recalls. "I thought, 'I want to work here. This is where I want to be.' "
At the end of the tour, the guide handed out her business cards to the students. Aguirre kept the card and looked at it every day as motivation. When it started to tatter, she encased it in a plastic baseball card protector.
Margarita's parents agreed to let her attend Jack E. Singley Academy in Irving so she could study drafting and architecture.
Aguirre, the first person on either side of her immediate family to go to college, then graduated from the University of Texas at Austin and earned her master's degree in architecture at the University of Texas at Arlington in 2016.
"One thing I kept hearing is: 'You don't accidentally graduate from architecture school.' You can say that about a lot of professions, but living those three grad school years of long all-nighters and model-making was definitely very tough," says Aguirre. "Sometimes you forget to eat. Sometimes you don't sleep. My aunt was the only person who truly understood what I was going through."
MAVS, COWBOYS AND STARS Aguirre is a lifelong sports fan and played soccer in high school. At HKS, she has 60-plus bobbleheads on her desk, including 11 Dirk Nowitzkis with all his different haircuts.
Working Rangers games isn't her only practicum.
She has worked at AT&T Stadium for six years, first as a tour guide and currently selling merchandise. Aguirre was also an usher at American Airlines Center for three years. And it's that gig that led serendipitously to her dream job.
One night at a Mavs game, Mose Boyer, AAC director of operations, asked Aguirre about her career plans. Aguirre told him she'd love to be a sports venue architect at HKS.
He said he'd put in a good word with his friend Mark Williams.
"As soon as he said that, I started to get teary-eyed and very emotional," Aguirre says. "His reaction was really funny. It was like, 'What the heck did I just say?' He asked if I was OK. So I vented out the whole story about the business card, and that I still had it, and that I'd been dreaming about working at HKS since I was 12.
"Mose knew I was a very hard worker. And he said, 'Just give me some time. We're going to make this happen.' "
It took nearly a year, but it did happen.
While finishing her master's, Aguirre interned with HKS in 2015, working on renovations to FC Dallas' Toyota Stadium in Frisco. She got the internship and still works there full time.
How that came to be is one of Williams' favorite stories.
"Here's this young lady whose dream for many, many years was not only to be an architect but to be an architect at HKS," says Williams. "She's sitting in the (job) interview and says she wants to work in sports. I get called down. Meet her. Talk to her. And then she unfolds this story of coming here for a tour and looking at one of our business cards daily as inspiration. It just brings tears to your eyes.
"Her fortitude and the vision and the stamina, all of that, is incredible. She marches right in here, gets a job and has done everything we hoped for that day, which is to flourish and take off. I saw somebody who had a strong passion to be an impactful, compassionate, successful architect and who wanted to do that at HKS."
JESSICA WHO? It took a little sleuthing to determine that the Jessica Ingram card that Aguirre had kept all those years belonged to Jessica Mabry, who'd gotten married and is now vice president of the education practice.
Mabry was summoned to Aguirre's interview but didn't know why.
"We both got chills," says Aguirre. "She goes, 'No way! This is crazy.' "
"Of course I was shocked," says Mabry. "The possibility of me handing out cards to these young kids and then seeing one of them come back 14 years later was not even a possibility in my mind, right? It is very cool."
Aguirre framed three cards together, the worn original, a newer card from Mabry and Aguirre's first. She keeps it on her desk along with her bobbleheads and a photo of her deceased aunt.
"I see Jessica still giving tours all the time," says Aguirre. "I tell her, 'You don't realize who you're impacting.' I want to embody that same mentorship."
Carla Cano, who sits next to Aguirre at the downtown headquarters, is one of four Cristo Rey Dallas College Prep students being mentored at HKS. The 17-year-old high school junior and her three fellow students are learning Rebit architectural software from Aguirre.
"It increased my love for architecture and wanting to choose it as a career path," Cano says. "So, yeah, she's been an inspiration. We took a tour of AT&T Stadium, Rangers and UTA. Seeing how passionate she is about architecture encourages us to do it, too." ___ AT A GLANCE: Ana Margarita Aguirre Age: 29 Title: Architectural designer, HKS sports group Born: Van Nuys, Calif. Grew up: Irving Resides: Arlington Education: Jack E. Singley Academy in Irving 2008; bachelor's degree in Hispanic studies with a minor in architecture, University of Texas in Austin, 2012; master's degree in architecture, University of Texas at Arlington, 2016 Personal: Engaged to Jason Hooks