Many immigrants who come to the United States in search of a better life go straight to work, bypassing getting a college education because earning money for their livelihoods is simply more important at the time. But just because someone didn’t get a degree when they were in their 20s doesn’t mean that all hope is lost, as one 59-year-old Mexican man is proving. Gerardo Marquez, a man who “came to this country with no money, no papers, no English and worked for years” to support his family, has proven that the American Dream is alive and well after he finally earned his bachelors degree last weekend.
Gerardo’s story went viral earlier this week after his daughter, Jacqueline Marquez, posted a loving tribute to her papi on Facebook. Along with plenty of photos of her dad in his cap and gown, plus a video of his accomplishment, Jacqueline wrote that her dad “just graduated with his bachelors degree” and “WITH HONORS!”, she proudly declared. According to her, Gerardo earned a 3.8 GPA to receive his degree after years of struggle.
The inspirational story is sending goosebumps straight to my heart, to be honest. My family came here to work, too. My parents, both of whom had master’s degrees from their native countries, couldn’t get their degrees translated and therefore weren’t eligible to work as the engineers they had studied to be. Instead, I remember my dad working in construction and as a pizza delivery boy and my mom working in a factory making packaged meals. They sacrificed a lot in order to provide a good life for me and my brother, and so that I could eventually attend New York University and graduate cum laude.
My story probably sounds all-too-familiar, but Gerardo’s story is truly special. A father who not only sacrifices everything for his family but ALSO eventually goes back to school and graduates himself? That’s truly inspirational. As Jacqueline wrote, her dad “went from being a janitor/dishwasher to a future teacher.”
“He left everything in Mexico to give my family a better life and it’s an honor to watch him walk the stage just like he did for my brother and I,” she added.
She goes on to say that Gerardo is “truly the American Dream and the most amazing dad.” And boy, do we agree!
“I still remember the times I called him crying that I was scared I couldn’t get through school, scared I couldn’t pay for it, scared I just wouldn’t make it through life,” she wrote on Facebook. “And despite him struggling through school too, he never failed to be my biggest fan and push me to keep going.”
I sincerely hope that Gerardo’s story will be an inspiration to all fellow immigrants out there that they, too, can be an #immigrad — as Jacqueline puts it. Although we hear plenty of amazing stories of kids of immigrants and DREAMers walking the graduation stage, it’s rare to hear a story like this one. Here’s to all of the hardworking parents, to whom we say: Si se pudo!