I will start by asking you this: where were you when you were 18 years old? For some of us it was college, for others it was a job, and for some it was some it was what becomes a Christmas story, a family anecdote, or perhaps some heartfelt autobiography material. For Rodrigo Nunez it was his immigration to the United States to earn a better life — for himself and his family.
“Back in my hometown, there were not many schools in the village. There was one but… in my village there was no electricity, and neither were there roads to get to the school. The government would send teachers who would stay for about three months and then go back because they didn’t like it. People there, like my older brothers, never finished school. You’d start a grade and get three months into it, and then the teacher would change. Luckily, one of my sisters got married and moved to a bigger town. That’s where I finished my school.”
When Nunez joined his brothers in the United States, the plan was to continue his education. At first.
“I finished the equivalent of junior high in Mexico, and I was going to come here to study to continue my education and work. I went to one high school to ask them to sign up, but they said I was too old. Eventually, I just stopped asking.”
Instead, Nunez focused his attention on sending money back home to his parents. He chuckles, “I realized that paying rent and paying bills wasn’t easy. My parents were back in Mexico, they didn’t tell me what to do. I realized I had to work.”
Nunez began working in the vineyards which he continued with for about three years. In the flurry of his work and the beginning of a new life, his education took a back seat.
At one point, Nunez says that he decided he wanted a car. He took up a second job to earn some money at a local Burger King and was hired to wash dishes. It was here in the back of a fast-food restaurant, among the din and clatter of dishes and soap, away from the educational administrations he reached out to, where he was encouraged and pushed to go back to school.
“Initially, my only goal was to pick up the language,” he says. “I signed up at my community college. I was maybe 20 years old. And I was so… impressed. Coming here to this amazing college with private study rooms and a lot of tutors available, I wondered why more people weren’t studying. I thought about my own people, fellow immigrants, people I know. There were so many resources and so much help. I just fell in love.”
Five and a half years later he finished his ESL program. However the spark of passion that had alight in Nunez was yet to kindle. Unwilling to accept this as the end of his education, he talked to his counselor and enrolled in a few General Studies classes with the hopes of obtaining a degree. It was during his Accounting class that Nunez first acquainted himself with Edspira. “It was so easy to follow; I used to wish he was my teacher,” he laughs.
As time passed, the loom of Nunez’s life began weaving tapestries of other fabrics. He says, “I used to work full time at the restaurant and got married at one point. I started to wonder if this was ever going to end. That was when I was advised to consider Accounting. Before I knew it, I was ready to transfer at a four-year university.”
Nunez spent 15 years to get his Associate’s degree. 15 years balancing his education, his work, and his commitment to his family. He tells me, “I fell in love with learning. I look at how far I come and wonder what would’ve been if I hadn’t had the opportunity to come to this country. When I knew I was going to transfer, I knew that it was going to turn into a career. I knew that now I was dreaming big. It wasn’t just about getting promoted at Burger King, it wasn’t about getting a certificate. I began attending school full-time.”
Nunez attended his school fully aware of his legal status, fully aware that he did not have an ID or an SSN number, fully aware that even after investing his time in his education there was the possibility of not being able to apply for a job.
“I remember thinking that no matter what, I will be ready today and not cry about missing my chance yesterday. My effort will pay off.”
Right before he transferred to Sonoma State University, Rodrigo’s legal status was confirmed. In 2017, Nunez got his Bachelor’s degree in Accounting, and left his 17 year job at Burger King to work as an accountant. He is currently working on obtaining his CPA license and relying on study resources from Edspira. If that is not some heartfelt, inspiring autobiography material, I don’t know what is.
Today, take the time to appreciate something you have that someone else may not. Think about the Nunez’s who have traveled from different countries, who have built their life block by block, conquering fear and unpredictability, persisting throughout the parallel growth of their family and career, revisiting their passion to learn.
We at Edspira are here to support you in your journey. We exist to make a high-quality business education accessible to everyone, regardless of income, nationality, gender, or race – all people can learn if given the opportunity and access to the right resources. Start learning today.