By Ashlene Lebrón
At the age of 18 working two jobs and studying to earn a college degree is no easy task, unless if we have a clear goal, a dream and a major determination.
He, lets call him Santiago, is a 52 year old 5ft 11 inches tall dark skinned man with a messy head of hair and back glasses had a hard and tough life. Being one out of nine brothers and sisters to go to college was no walk in the park, for him especially having divorced parents and a large household to feed. Life was not easy, but Santiago seemed to manage his life exceedingly well.
He came from a “dysfunctional family”, who tried its best to keep up. His mom had already been married twice before meeting his father. Each parents had a set of kids already. One had four children, the other two and together they had three more kids.
For him living in a lower-class family was a tough problem to handle, specially living in a three-bedroom house with eight other siblings. Each room was divided accordingly, the girls had their own room, the boys had their separate headquarters and his parents occupied the master bedroom. Even though his folks tried their best, their income was not enough.
“My first job was at the age of 14 and it was going from door to door with my brother to polish shoes,” he said scratching his head thoughtfully.
After that growing up he also worked at a tapestry store, cemetery, selling phones, as shoe sales man and painting buildings. Santiago realized that he could obtain a successful life by attending college to get a degree and become a professional.
“I realized that by studying I would have a better life, a career and better pay,” he said.
His interest to go to college grew even more after working for a few years as a shoes sales man. He recalled being a great employee trying to sell much more footwear to impress his boss. Unfortunately, his boss did not care about his workers or their achievements. Right then and there he knew that he wanted to be something. He knew it was time for a change and a better future.
“I had told my boss that day that I was going to have a great job just like him someday, but wouldn’t treat my employees the same way,” Santiago said recalling the event.
After enrolling in college, studying computer science, and having his job at the shoe store, he landed himself a job painting at an institute to get some extra money. However, with so much schoolwork and labor hours he never felt the twinge of dropping out of college, instead he would look for other alternatives. He switched all his courses to late night classes to work more hours at his jobs.
“Now I am a fiscal officer at the Modern Hairstyling Institute and have been working there for over 35 years,” he said grinning.
He had started working in the institute by painting and once he graduated from college as a programmer he was given a higher position. For his final assignment he had to create a program, so he built an efficient system for the school. He graduated from the Interamerica University at Bayamón.
After completing his mission, he had four children, who are his inspiration and his reminder of all his hard work and sacrifice to provide a safe home for his teens.
“My inspiration to keep being the man I am today are my children,” he said smiling to himself.
He loves children deeply and devotes his whole life to them. However, if he could go back to the past he would. There are a few events that he believes could have been different personally. If he would have the opportunity to start over he says some circumstances would have turned out a whole lot different, whether it is solving family problems or making different decisions in his career. Nevertheless, he does believe he got the future he always wanted and he does not regret having the family he has now.
“I believe my past could help others, whether it is by teaching them how to make the right decisions or never giving up,” he said seriously.
His life story is a great inspiration for those teens that come from “problematic homes”. These adolescents can see that there is still a fighting chance to create a better and bright future. Santiago is a great beacon of hope and a role model to look up to.
“My son has come a long way and I couldn’t be prouder,” Carmela, Santiago’s mother, said gleefully.
She is proud of her son’s achievements and his bravery to go to college with so many obstacles on his way. He was the only child that went straight to college after graduating from high school. Unlike his other siblings, who went later on when they were in their 30s.
Carmen remembers Santiago as a loving, yet hard working child. He would always try to find a solution for a problem
“I wish I could have given him a better life, but he was able to make a life for himself and people can admire him for that,” she said in tears.
Santiago is a family man and a hard worker.
Name changed because the person wants to remain anonymous.