Coming from the small Central American country of Belize, it was difficult growing up, at least for me. We had no money and we had no food. In fact, I was always looking for ways to bring food home for my family, even as a kid.
I was smart. In fact, I was the one who helped everyone else with their homework. I did well in school. But after high school, since I wasn’t at the very top of my class, I had very little chance of getting a scholarship. (In Belize, scholarships are reserved for only the very best and brightest.)
My parents wanted me to go to college but couldn’t pay. Luckily, my aunt was willing and able to pay for me to go to college but after two years, she could no longer swing it financially. I couldn’t continue.
It’s not that my family didn’t believe in me. We just didn’t have any money. Even though I knew education was the ticket to great things, it became out of my reach.
I came to America shortly thereafter because I was told that I could conquer the American Dream. For me, that would mean not having to worry about being poor…a fear that I’m always running from, even now. When I think about Belize, the first thing I think of is my fear of not being able to support my family.
Land of Opportunity—and Choice
I want my kids to have more exposure to the modern world of technology and innovation. Here in America, my son can fulfill his dream of becoming a pilot, and my daughter could become a doctor. In Belize, we don’t have pilot schools or an accessible medical school. I want my kids to be able to study whatever they want, and they can do that here in America.
Blackstone Valley Prep, the regional charter school my son and daughter attend in Rhode Island, is giving my son and daughter that opportunity, preparing them every single day to be what mommy and daddy only dreamed about. To be leaders of integrity, raising the bar so high that will create changes not only in their inner circle but in their city and state.
My kids’ teachers are the best. I actually see them more like coaches. With their coaching and my assistance, we help my kids together. We need to be on the same page so that my kids are hearing a unified message.
The teachers don’t just tell my son he can do better—they show him. It reminds me of the old saying, “They may not remember what you said or what you did, but they will always remember how you made them feel.”
Sometimes people ask my wife and me how we knew Blackstone Valley Prep was going to be a great school. This answer is so easy for me. I knew it was a great school from the minute we walked in and we started talking to the principal. Her energy was amazing.
When they told us that it would have a model of discipline, uniforms, and the commitment to 100 percent of students going to college, we knew right away, this was where our kids needed to be.
Then when we found out the school would expand through high school, we were even more sure. When graduation comes, these teachers will have done their part getting them ready for college and now it will be up to us as their parents to send them to college.
How will we do that? I don’t know. But my wife and I work hard. I have actually taken a step back in my work so I can be the parent that is totally involved in our kids’ education. I’m the homework guy, the one who knows all the happenings at school, the one out there in the community raising my voice for more great schools like the one we are so lucky to have.
I also earn money interpreting and translating. I help other Latinos fill out online paperwork related to health care and I also do translation for places that need it. My wife sells Mary Kay—and I help with that too. We are making it work. Being an active partner in my kids’ education is very important to me.
Sometimes people ask me if I’d think of moving back to the Caribbean. I always say, “I’m not going nowhere unless our kids’ school goes with us.”