A Facebook post by a proud daughter about her dad — Mexican immigrant Gerardo Marquez, who has just completed his lifelong dream of graduating from college in the U.S., with a near-perfect GPA, no less — has just gone viral with its story of perseverance. Jacqueline Marquez, who shared the photos of her dad’s commencement ceremony, saw her post picked up by the popular Facebook page UndocuMedia , where it has since inspired thousands of people, receiving more than 53K reactions and 1.6K comments. The original post is below:
“He came to this country with no money, no papers, no English and worked for years to support us,” read Jacqueline’s popular Facebook post. “Went from being a janitor/dishwasher to a future teacher. He’s truly the American Dream and the most amazing dad. 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.”
Jacqueline tells Yahoo Lifestyle that her father’s journey has been difficult, but that by continuing on despite the challenges, he made his dream become reality.
Gerardo Marquez, 59, moved from Mexico to the United States with his wife when he was 30. He enrolled right away in college, but when his first child, a son, was born, his education took a back seat so he could focus on earning an income. He took odd jobs as a janitor and dishwasher.
“Since I was a kid, my dad would always say he would go back to school once I graduated high school,” Jaqueline says. And Gerardo kept his promise, with both of them enrolling in college when she graduated from high school, and Gerardo keeping his janitorial job in his city’s waste management department.
“ We figured out FAFSA, loans, buying books, picking classes, and adjusting to college at the same time. But he didn’t receive too much help. There were often advisers that didn’t give my dad the attention he needed. There were people at his university that said It would be better for him to drop out, change to an easier major, or had no answers for his situations,” she says.
Gerardo reached out to Jacqueline for support, and she was there to encourage him like he had been there for her when she was growing up. But his schedule was taxing: His day would start at 4 every morning, when he would go to work and remain on the job until 3 p.m.; t hen he’d head straight to his college night classes.
Despite living in the U.S. for more than 20 years, his English was not the best — not to mention that he was much older than his classmates. His biggest struggle, however, was the loss of multiple family members during his third year of school, as his dad, brother, and brother-in-law all died within a few months of one another.
“My dad was struggling with a pain I could never understand, and my whole family thought we were losing him. It was so difficult,” Jacqueline says. “I know he felt isolated since coming to the U.S., so it was hard to accept he couldn’t physically be there when they were alive. I thought for sure he was going to drop out, but he just kept going.”
She adds, “I think being in school saved him. It gave him something to look forward to when he felt so alone and in such a dark place. I honestly don’t know how he managed. And he still remained a good dad.”
Gerardo is currently working in Guanajuato, Mexico, as a program director for a local adult English as a Second Language (ESL) program and for an after-school enrichment program. After the 10-week course is finished, he’s planning on focusing his efforts on finding a job as a teacher in Texas.
As far as his children go, they, too, are living the American dream: Jacqueline got her undergraduate degree from DePaul University in Chicago and is starting a master’s degree program in nursing in June. Gerardo’s son recently got a job with a vitamin company and moved to San Antonio with his fiancée. He plans to continue his studies in physical therapy.
“T here is no one who can tell immigrants they can’t achieve a success that is rightfully theirs. Even if the goal isn’t to get a degree, any other success for immigrants in this country is deserved and waiting for them to be grasped,” says Jacqueline. “All it takes is patience and the will to fight and move forward. No doubt in my mind any immigrant has that.”
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