It’s just like Maricarmen Mancillas to use her story to help others. Mancillas paired her calling as the parent liaison at Brown Elementary with her experience as a breast cancer survivor to empower the community. 

With the help of her faithful parent entourage and support of school leadership, she organized the school’s inaugural Breast Cancer Awareness Health Fair, held Monday at the school. Mancillas hopes that by sharing her story, others – especially women – are encouraged to be proactive about their health. 

More than 20 vendors provided a plethora of information on health screenings, support groups and other resources for Brown Elementary School parents, teachers, staff and other community members.

“She loves this community, and she’s not just ‘I care, and I love them’ person. She is an action person,” says Brown Elementary School Principal Maria Teresa Bloomfield. “She is an Irving leader. She brings volunteers and community members together. This event and the vendors that participated are a reflection of the relationships she’s built. And she’s using that to empower our community. In addition, she is a cancer survivor, and she doesn’t want anyone else to go through that. It’s something we as a school want to support – prevention, pre-screening and a healthy community.”

Mancillas was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015. But her diagnosis came as a surprise.

“I didn’t have any symptoms – no lumps, absolutely no sign,” she says. “If it wasn’t for my annual wellness exams, I don’t know where I would be. During my routine check-up, my doctor noticed something odd. I found an oncologist and it turns out there were two spots of concern on the same breast.”

Although the first spot was benign, the second tested malignant. Mancillas underwent a double mastectomy and has been cancer free for six years.

“One of the main reasons I like to encourage people to get involved is because when I was diagnosed with cancer, I didn’t know anything,” she says. “It was like, ‘You have this abnormality. Go see a specialist. Oh, you have cancer.’ It was through a mom that I taught in the Parent Center here at Brown that I was connected with a support group. I want to pay that forward.I like to help, and this gives me an opportunity to continue helping.” 

“The whole world,” Bloomfield interjects. “She helps anyone and everyone. She is very dedicated to her job, and you can tell. The success of a Parent Center is directly related to the parent liaison. If she wasn’t who she is, we wouldn’t have the amount of parent volunteers that we have. I have never seen a person that was so dedicated, so connected to her community. The charisma she carries is incredible.”

Mancillas has a volunteer base of approximately 70 parents. Among those 70 is a group of 10 she calls the “top 10.”

“No matter the hour, they are there,” she says. “I call them up, and they are more than ready to help.”

Leading the charge, though, is Mancillas.

“During the snowmageddon last February, this lady was calling me to tell me that she was putting together a food pantry for our families,” Bloomfield says. “Parents were walking to her house to get food. Our parents, if they need medical treatment, she connects them with places. Whatever I ask of her, whatever parents need, she makes it happen. She is an Irving leader, and she is key to the success of this school.”