My father came to the United States when he was 5 years old to work as a migrant worker in the fields. That makes him a Dreamer—in more ways than one. From what he tells me, he spent his time in the fields dreaming. He would dream about the new life he could have in America. Finding a wife, buying a home and raising kids in the land of opportunity. So when he was able to find a good job in a local factory he knew that with hard work anything was possible. And that hard work paid off when he married, bought a home and had three kids. But he also instinctively knew that the only way his children could succeed in life was through a great education. You see, he had no connections, no famous last name or trust funds to pass on to us. A quality education would be the only inheritance my siblings and I would receive from our parents.
A good education is what they gave us
My parents put us through private schools and helped us get through college with their savings. They were able to place me in the best position they could to succeed. I was lucky that my parents' work ethic passed to me. Combined with the quality education my folks paid for, I was able to experience some successes in life. My path led me to serve as the National Hispanic Communications Director for Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign and then later in Washington, D.C., where I worked for Obama's administration. I remember one weekend my parents came out to visit me in D.C. and I was fortunate enough to schedule a private tour at the White House for them. After we were done, we walked out of the White House as the sun began to set. My father stopped, looked at me and said, "Mijo [son], me and your mom are so proud of you." But at that moment I remember thinking, "No, dad, I'm proud of you because I wouldn't be here to arrange this special moment if it wasn't for you and your hard work and understanding that a quality education would be your legacy to me." Now that I'm also a father, I deeply understand my father's pursuit of the American dream for us and I can appreciate the value of hard work and sacrifice for a better life. You see, my story is special but not limited to my family. There are parents with similar journeys who are working hard to make sure their kids have the same opportunities I had. There are also parents who have their kids in schools and they too instinctively know that this will be their best chance out of poverty and struggle. So if you ask me, did a quality education change my life? No doubt. Just ask my dad.
Photo courtesy of Vince Casillas.
Vince Casillas is a second-generation Mexican-American. He founded and became President of Casillas Strategies in 2011. Casillas Strategies is a full-service Public Relations firm which specializes in Strategic Communications & Outreach, Messaging & Branding, Latino Marketing, Government Relations/Lobbying and Parent Engagement Development in Education. Recent clients have included Exelon, Blue ...