I am the daughter of Mexican immigrants and went from poverty to graduating with a business degree and becoming an entrepreneur.
I grew up in one of the most impoverished places in this country, Laredo, Texas. My father was a migrant worker with only a sixth-grade education.
As a child, I dreamt of becoming a teacher. At age 5, I discovered my entrepreneurial spirit. By the age of 10, my family had moved more than 10 times, disrupting my education over and over again.
My family could not afford to give me more than the basics. I found ways to make it through school with limited resources. By 12, I had run away from home. At 14, I dropped out of school and became a mom by 15.
With only a sixth-grade education, I pursued my dream of becoming a teacher with great vigor. I raised my son, worked two jobs and went to school. I felt lost and alone, no one to turn to, no one to guide me. Fortunately, I kept moving forward, found my way to and through college and paved the way for myself while leading the way for others.
Today, I hold a dual MBA and am a first-generation college graduate, entrepreneur and CEO of my own company. I am living the American Dream.
My father could have been a successful entrepreneur and a much better provider for his family. However, he could not make ends meet, and as a result he was constantly in search of new opportunities. Unfortunately, the cost to my mom and siblings was more than the eye could see. They lacked continuity in education, a sense of community and valuable childhood friends and experiences.
The reality is that life for immigrants is not easy, and sometimes survival can conflict with education. Today, the digital divide makes it more difficult for first-gen students to succeed in the 21st century and get out of poverty.
Company leaders are seeking a diverse talent pipeline in order to grow their companies, because without it they will perish. One of the greatest skills that successful first-gen students bring to the table is creativity and resourcefulness. They are 10 times more committed because this is their first opportunity to live the American Dream. First-gen students are willing to go the extra mile in order to succeed. Necessity is the mother of invention, and diverse talent brings innovation to life.
Just like I am paving the way for others, GlobalMindED does the same, only tenfold. GlobalMindED has created a conference where people can meet each other and help each other succeed. GlobalMindED helps students connect the dots in their education and career and provides positive role models and mentors who can help them see what’s possible in their lives and careers.
GlobalMindED also provides internship opportunities, professional development and access to professionals, employers and career options. In addition, GlobalMindED helps individuals hone their communication, self-discipline, negotiation and marketing skills.
The only model first-gen students may have is one of poverty, despair and possibly crime. GlobalMindED serves as a role model. Anyone can succeed no matter what. In an era where there is great skepticism on immigration, we can help first-gen students succeed by providing them the necessary tools for success. We can help America by helping first-gen students succeed and diffuse the xenophobia by helping immigrants become successful and respectful members of society that can contribute to America’s strength.
Please join me at this year’s GlobalMindED Conference June 9-11. GlobalMindED covers the registration fee for first-gen students to participate in the annual Student Leadership Program. Professors, advisers and staff who would like to attend the conference can register at a $495 rate that includes a complimentary pre-conference workshop June 9.
I went back to Laredo a few years ago, and my childhood friends and family members were in the same place they were when I left 35 years earlier. I am so lucky I made it. I wish there would have been an organization like GlobalMindED that would have helped me pave the way.
GlobalMindED provides a platform for people to thrive. A city is only as good as its employers, employers are only as good as their employees, and employees are only as good as their schools and the teachers who teach them. GlobalMindED is committed to elevating all of those.
Rocío A. Pérez, is the Principal of Inventiva Consulting, LLC with more than 20 years in developing talent, energizing teams and designing and executing business and marketing strategies.