Latino Americans Blog
The American Dream that Came True
September 9, 2013 10:28 AM by Roy Lopez
As a child growing up with two parents from Monterrey, Mexico, there were many challenges that I faced. One of the challenges was that neither of my parents spoke English. My parents, Emilio and Gloria Lopez, moved from Monterrey, Mexico to Bryan, Texas. In the 1960’s, jobs were scarce in Bryan, so we moved to Fresno, California, and this is where my story began. My sister Dora was thirteen years old, my brother Emilio Jr. was ten, and I was seven. Growing up in Fresno, California, my family worked as migrant workers, working with peaches and grapes. I met a man as a child who told my parents, “Your children must attend school for half a day, and the remainder of the day they can work in the fields.” That man’s name was Cesar Chavez. I also met Dolores Huerta. Seeing that I was a child when I met them, I did not know who they really were. All I knew was that they were important figures at the time. I did not realize until later on while reading books on civil rights just how important they were and the role they played in our country. Later on, once at Texas A&M, I received an award from Dolores Huerta. When I saw her, I graciously thanked her for what she had done for the other migrant workers and for me. I am blessed to have seen her again as an adult, to share with her how she helped me achieve my dream, and that’s called an education.
Growing up and working under these hardships, my brother and I got ourselves into trouble. There was so much going on in our country at that time, such as the Peace Movement. There were motorcycle gangs like the Hell’s the Angels, the protesting over the Vietnam War, and racism in the schools. After getting caught up in these troubled times, my father decided to move our family back to Bryan, Texas. After that, we faced another hurdle: segregation. It was very difficult for me to adjust because I spent my childhood surrounded by the Hispanic community and now I had to be separated from Hispanics. If you are familiar with the movie “The Butler”, you can get a glimpse of what I endured as a child. My father decided to place me in St. Joseph’s Catholic School. I met a priest named Father Tim Valenta, who became my mentor and role model. Father Tim continued to encourage me to further my education.
The next chapter in my life began when I graduated from high school. My parents and Father Tim continued to push me through my education. I was accepted into South West Texas State in San Marcos, Texas. I then transferred to Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas. Can you imagine attending this predominately white university in the late 1970s? However, I did not give up. I had a dream to achieve. Upon graduating from Texas A&M with a Business Administration & Management degree in 1982, the dream came true. With the intention of educating young lives, my life took a surprising change. I was one of seventy educators and community leaders invited to visit the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. Soon after, I was the first Hispanic to be a recipient of the Star Award given by Texas Association of Financial Aid Administrators. I was also privileged to receive the Hispanic Heritage Community Award, presented by Delores Huerta. I was the second Hispanic in the history of Texas A&M to receive the John J. Koldus Faculty and Staff Achievement Award. In 1990, I founded the Fiestas Patrias of Bryan-College Station, TX, which gives local scholarships to high school students and adults who seek further formal education. I was recognized for my outstanding efforts to recruit the best and the brightest students and cadets to Texas A&M University.
Working as a Senior Advisor at Texas A&M University, I have met a multitude of successful people, including Texas A&M University athletes, renowned professors, actors, community leaders and professional athletes. My parents dream also became a reality, Emilio and Gloria Lopez became local business owners of West 25th Cleaners without knowing English. They have had their business for over forty years now. I would like to thank God, my parents, my wife Mayela, my children, Christopher, Alexander, and Nadia, my priest, my university (Texas A&M) and those whom I have worked with and the students who have crossed my path. None of my success would have been possible without all of their continued support. I am a prime example of someone who came from nothing and made my dreams come true.