José William Trejo Ramírez

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José Trejo describes the ten years he has spent in the state of North Carolina. He came here from Mexico with his family and faced some challenges as he progressed through high school. After graduating from high school, he worked for a time with family members in construction and went back to school to receive his Associate’s Degree in Accounting. He then describes his current work with the Migrant Education Program in Henderson County and with the High School Education Program, a statewide program. José explains his desire to make an impact on many people and he would like to do that by first obtaining a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science and/or some other Law related field before going to Law School. He ultimately wants to be able to provide for his family both here and in Mexico.



Felicia Arriaga: My name is Felicia Arriaga and I am sitting down to do an interview with Jose Trejo. Today is April 10th. It’s about 11:46 and we are at a conference here called the Farmworker Institute and we are out in Chapel Hill, NC. Jose traveled here from Hendersonville--well he was in San Antonio right before--but he is from Hendersonville, NC. And so we thought this would be a good time to sit down to do this interview. I am very happy to have him here today. And first, Jose I’d just like to ask you a little bit about where you were born and when did you come to North Carolina?
Jose Trejo: My--. I was born in Mexico, in the state of Guanajuato, the municipality is Tarimoro. And I was just raised up until the age of thirteen in a small town in that municipality. I came to the US--to NC--in December of 2004 when I was thirteen and how I came--or why I came--it’s because my family. We just--my dad--just decided to bring us and I didn’t really have much of a choice.
FA: Okay, and so how many--? How big was your family at that point? And did your parents already know people here?
JT: Yeah, my dad--because it was my dad that decided to bring us here--so he had some distant relatives in the area, Hendersonville. And so that’s why he just brought us here. At that time, my family was [Pause] both of my parents, two of my brothers and my youngest sister at that point, and myself. So, that’s five, well it was four siblings and my parents which--. But only the three brothers, only we came with our parents and my sister stayed in Mexico.
FA: And you all came to--. You said that your parents had some connections to people in Hendersonville?
JT: Yeah, second cousins of my dad.
FA: Okay, great. So you’ve been here since you were thirteen years old?
JT: Yeah.
FA: So, you’ve been through the--the high school system--. You attended high school in Hendersonville, is that correct?
JT: Yeah, I attended high school. When I was--. When I moved to North Carolina I was in--you know, it was December--so it was like in the middle of the school year. I was in secundaria which here it would be middle school, I was in segundo de secundaria or second grade in secundaria but it’s the equivalent of eighth grade here so I was in eighth grade for like four months and then on to high school.
FA: So what were the--. What were your initial reactions to coming to North Carolina and how did you feel? How was that experience for you?
JT: Just education wise or as a whole?
FA: Everything. You can start with education if that’s easier, I guess. But everything, I think.
JT: Well I’ll just start with my first day impressions which were very interesting I think. Mostly everybody has a different idea of what the US looks like, if that’s the way to put it. You know, Hendersonville is somewhat rural so that was very interesting to see—mobile homes, you know in Mexico you don’t really see Mobile homes. And so, it was just, you know, I think, you know it was just very different housing wise. Weather was different and what have you but the school, I think was the biggest shocker because I was coming from a--. You know my telesecundaria had about thirty students for 7th, 8th, and 9th grade and so that’s a really, really small school; equivalent to what some large high school classrooms have. And you know coming to six hundred students in my middle school—so that was a big shocker. You know it’s a huge building compared to Mexico’s buildings and then there’s, you know, the language. It was just hard to grasp anything of what people were saying. You know there were only very few--I would say not even a handful of students of those--who I got to meet and who interpreted for me occasionally in the classroom.
FA: Oh, okay.
JT: But it was, you know, very minimal.
FA: So then, how did you--? How did you--? How was the process of learning English for you--? Did you know English before coming to the United States?
JT: [Laughter] You know there’s English classes in the secundaria but they are really not [Pause]--. You know you take like one semester and it’s probably the equivalent of taking half of a semester here of Spanish for a English speaker. You know some words but you don’t really know how to connect them or to make full phrases. And so, luckily enough, in Henderson County, there was the first year of something called the Newcomer Center which is where all the newcomers—all the students who were brought from another country in the US and didn’t know English—could attend that, that center for half of the school day. So that was very helpful but but it was only for your first school year and so it was like for only half of the school year; so I only got that help for a few months, which I believe was the biggest help I got. Just because, you know, it was like intensive ESL, because the ESL at the high schools are sometimes not, you know--. I think it’s because they jam all the ESL levels into one classroom. And so, to make it easier for everyone, they just repeat the basic level, year after year so you don’t really learn anything but the basics, which is a good foundation.
FA: So, were you in the ESL program in high school as well?
JT: I was in the ESL program, like I said, I had some experience with that. You know, it was just like an interesting experience because it’s always the basic and so--. Actually the ESL teachers recommended that I take Spanish to learn English and so they--. What they did—because there was so few Latinos at my school—you know everybody had to present in Spanish because they were learning Spanish and I had to present in English because I was learning English and basically the whole class was my judge. Which was quite interesting and that was really helpful. And eventually I just stopped taking ESL because it was—you were in there with the few Spanish-speaking people in the high school so you are partly socializing, partly learning. It just depends, the breakdown of that is sometimes very interesting. But, you know, I was part of the ESL classes.
FA: Okay, and you said you were one of the few--I think you said Latino students in your school. So how did that feel? Did you have a certain experience around that? And did you feel that you did tend to only be with Latino students? Or what was that experience like?
JT: Yeah, I think that’s--. I was in a high school with about—I would say not even twenty Spanish speaking students out of about close to 1,000. So you know, that’s about two percent more or less, so it was a very small group. And sometimes, you don’t talk with everybody, so you have a really--. Well I had a very, very small social circle. And [door opens] as a result of that, I was only you talking with them, especially the first—my freshman, sophomore year—[door closes] because I only knew Spanish and only so much English. So, I was--. I did have that small group which looking back at it was probably a bit of a disadvantage because, you know that small group of students of whom some or most didn’t know English either. And so they weren’t very involved in school activities for anything and as a result, you don’t really hear how to get involved. And so I think that was a bit of a disadvantage and come my--towards the end of my junior year, senior year--then I, I had the better grasp of English and so I had--. I made a good bit of friends, I like to think and so I really enjoyed that. But I think, you know, having been just limited to a small group of friends, you know limited me you know, academically but also in an extracurricular way. And you know there’s also like the Spanish and you know there’s all these things that sort of build up to, you know, an invisible disadvantage and students really don’t see that as a disadvantage because--. I think for the Hispanic community sometimes us just getting through high school is an accomplishment and so they do it socializing, that’s sometimes fine. But yeah that was more or less a bit of my high school experience, I think.
FA: Okay, and did you--? You mentioned the teacher that suggested you take the Spanish class but did you have other people or other teachers that you knew you could go to for help if you needed something, particularly around school issues but also around language issues or some of those things?
JT: [Pause] You know, like the first two years, like I said, I only really knew the ESL teachers, and you really don’t get to build any kind of relationship with anybody--with any other teacher--because there’s that communication gap. And so, I would say, it was my sophomore year when I met my French teacher and my Spanish teacher--there were two actually--and there were more. I think they understood my situation better as a newcomer and you know, trying to go from one language to another because they had. And so they were very encouraging but they didn’t really have any--you know other than talking to me a little bit--they really couldn’t offer much of counseling. And I didn’t have a relation--a student counselor relationship--with my counselor and so, that was, you know that also plays out to be a disadvantage. But there were--my foreign language teachers--were really my main contacts in the school. [Door opens]
FA: And, in um--. How did you parents go about--? Were they involved in your education in trying to figure out how, and try to help you navigate the education system since it was so new?
JT: I think, you know, my parents were very absent in the system. You know in my education and it’s not because they intended it in that way but my mom and my dad were there, you know, to get us enrolled in middle school when we came. So they, you know, they signed us up and the distant relative was helping a little bit as well and that was good. But, both of my parents none of the two finished, you know not even elementary school and so they’re not really aware of, you know what to suggest or what to tell you when you’re in school; other than ‘work hard and you’ll--they’re--sure you’ll get there. But they were absent and you know I would never ever, ever blame them. You know, they did everything they could and encouragement was definitely important.
FA: Oh, okay. So what did--. I guess--what did after you high school experience--. Can you talk about some of the differences and similarities between your experience here going to high school and your experience being in the education system in Mexico?
JT: Yeah, let’s see. I think some of the--I mean like the [13:43] similarities were--you know, it seems like teachers in the US have less authority it seemed like than in Mexico. In Mexico, you know the teacher can basically kick you out of school if they choose to do so and obviously they wouldn’t do it without a valid reason. But here it’s, it’s kind of, for me or for anyone coming from my culture where there is a lot of respect for the people who you know are--can provide for you--it’s very hard coming to one where it’s--. It’s not--it’s not that they aren’t appreciated or respected but it’s, I think--.
FA: It’s a different dynamic almost?
JT: It is, its. So that was one of the things that--. You know here teachers can’t really, I mean they teach you but if any student has any minimal complaint, you know or they’re just barinches, I don’t even know how to say barinches in English.
FA: [Laughter]
JT: I’m sure it will come up when I don’t need it anymore. But, you know, so that was kind of disappointing. I mean, to me just to see that happen because you know, teachers work hard and in Mexico it’s for a very low wage. Here it’s prestigious but it’s also not one of the best paid professions. That’s one of things. In Mexico you get, I think--. They, they try to discipline students; you know educate and discipline students. Another thing is that coming from a small school; you get one teacher for all your classes. And so your teacher has to be more or less knowledgeable of everything, which is good for them but it’s also—they’re not specialized—so they can’t really go into depth on some topics that students might be interested in. Whereas here, you get--there are like five algebra teachers a couple biology--so that was an advantage for sure. Facilities, there is always you know, books, resources that are provided whereas in Mexico you have to pay for all that. What else, I think--. Like I said, coming from a small school--. And I’ll just say this although I don’t think anybody believes me but in middle school I was the class--well not the class president--but basically the president. But it’s like a thirty person group so it’s not like a huge deal and I liked to think of myself as a good student there coming to here and it was more--. I mean not unrecognized because there was nothing really to recognize but its—you really are flying under the radar for a long time. And I think for some students that’s where they drop off because there is no recognition of their effort and it’s hard to see their effort by some—most teachers.
FA: And the standards that we use sometimes.
JT: Yeah.
FA: Tests and that’s not always the best way to think about that. I did also want to ask you though--. So, you graduated high school in ’09 and then, what did you do after you graduated high school?
JT: Wow, actually you know when I graduated high school I went straight into the workforce; which it was like ’09, my dad works in construction and I was working with him. And so the work was terrible, it still is but--.
FA: Terrible in what way?
JT: You know, you go straight to work to get money to attend college and you know, my senior year like I said, I didn’t have much counseling and I wasn’t even sure how much tuition was at different colleges or universities. And also, until my senior year I didn’t find out I wasn’t on a four-year track instead of a two-year, so that was really interesting to find out all these things once you know English.
FA: Right. [Laughter]
JT: Bad timing. But once you enter into the workforce--. There wasn’t much work in Hendersonville so I came to Winston-Salem to work with my uncles and grating, you know demolition?
FA: Oh, yeah.
JT: For the summer. Then I went back to Hendersonville, there was still very little work so I went, traveled with my dad and some relatives to Alabama to the [Pause] I can’t remember, it’s the arsenal, the military base but they’re always doing very big projects. So that was a really interesting experience just because I was, you know I wasn’t really with all my family—with my mom that cooks very well compared to my dad who’s not a chef.
FA: [Laughter] And I’m assuming you also aren’t a chef?
JT: Yeah, my cereal and milk is pretty good, but that’s really as far as I go. [Pause] But you know, living in a one bedroom apartment with six—seven—other guys, waking up at six in the morning, you know it was just a really interesting experience and you know, I already knew that wasn’t something that I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I think anybody realizes that, they want--. It was interesting to work and so by the end of that I had some money and then I was coming back to Hendersonville, you know now and then, to finish applying for my local community college. And I was going back to my high school and I met another teacher and she helped me; you know she told me about FAFSA which I didn’t know about until a month before I enrolled. And she helped me complete that and so that was very helpful. And then January, 2010, I enrolled in my local community college.
FA: And what courses were you taking or what was your goal in going to the community college?
JT: I think my goal was just to not be part of—you know like, you know there’s like this, this misconception that if you’re really--. If construction is something that your family does, then that’s what you’re going to be stuck doing, you know, regardless of what you do and the same for farmwork or for any industry and I think that’s--. Sometimes it’s not even portrayed in a negative way but it’s more of you know, you want to be able to help your family. And so, if you think about being in school for however many years and you get this kind of guilty feeling of ‘you know I’m going to be like in charge of my family for however many years.’ Not doing much and what if I end up coming back? But that’s a risk you have to take and I just wanted to find a good job and you know, explore something else and you know, I’d like to think that my stronger side academically is math and so I was like accounting would be a good field. And that was probably like the only math related field in my community college and so that’s why I opted into doing accounting; sadly it wasn’t very much math, it was like Algebra I but you know you don’t really find out till you’re in the middle of it. And so I decided to follow through with it and I’m still glad that I did although I don’t currently practice, well most of it, I still practice some of my math but that’s another story. I don’t know if that answered your question.
FA: Yeah. I was just wondering what you did while you were in college and to bring it back, you said you don’t use the accounting that much on an everyday basis but what do you do currently?
JT: Currently I work for the Migrant Education Program as an Outreach Specialist which is just going out to migrant families that come into our county, identifying them and helping them with educational resources. You know, that being school supplies, helping them get enrolled in school, making sure sometimes that they get the right classes but--, providing them with some of the fundamentals like food, you know even referring them to health clinics or what have you but I work more heavily with the out-of-school youth.
FA: And can you explain what out-of-school youth are?
JT: Out-of-school youth are usually kids who are--usually between 15 and 21--and who are eligible for a free education in the US and so that’s why we’re still able to serve them. They’re usually--most of the time they’re unaccompanied youth--traveling one place to another, just working in the fields. You know, no--. Their kind of just floating around and sometimes they’re interested in [Pause] in learning and studying what have you but like I said sometimes they’re just floating around. Sometimes they get these negative perceptions of what educational program are and you know like for example; sometimes we come knocking at the door offering all these free services and what have you and sometimes people are very skeptical of what we do. But, you know they’re just, they’re really just out there working. They don’t know much about the resources though and that’s kind of what we do, we try to go to them and making sure that--even if they aren’t interested in our services--that if there’s anything we can do for them, such as provide clothing, food, a referral, an air mattress. You know sometimes, it’s just like some basic things that they don’t even know how to get or don’t even have a way to get to them; and so that’s what we do with OSY and then the ones that are interested in school then we try to offer afternoon classes at their homes. You know like GED, English, and we try to get them sometimes into like field trips to make them feel like they’re part of a school system really. But you know, they’re a special group for sure. Sometimes they’re high school drop-outs but mainly they’re students who’ve come to the US and never enrolled in formal school.
FA: Oh, okay. And so you said, the organization--MEP--offers afternoon classes sometimes for the students that want them. So do you teach those classes?
JT: Sometimes, sometimes I do and I think I have to read my job description more carefully.
FA: [Laughter]
JT: I think there’s a part on there where it says everything else because my title is Outreach Specialist but it’s really anything that you can do--that you’re willing to do--for you know, to help migrant families and youth. And so [door opens] for English classes it’s mainly tutors that we hire in the summer but you know, there’s this program called Plaza Comunitaria which is kind of distance learning to get your elementary or middle school certificate through the Mexican Consulate studying at home. And sometimes our students haven’t been--they’ve been away from school for a bit--so they’re not really into good studying habits. So sometimes they need a little help or sometimes just tutoring and then there’s the GED and I definitely work more heavily on that.
FA: Oh, okay.
JT: And it’s--since they have the option to take it in any language they choose to--there’s like that--. There’s a lot of tutoring because, you know, Plaza Comunitaria which is elementary and middle school—most of our students have been through it—and so they’re very familiar with the concepts but GED is another level and even though they have a book that explains how to do everything, sometimes it’s not just book and that’s how you learn; sometimes you need a person to explain what might seem like a hard concept. So, I do sometimes that. Actually I currently do 2-3 nights working with GED students out of their home.
FA: Oh, okay. And for how long are you doing those things? And how many students?
JT: It’s usually between 2-3 hours per student. It’s, let’s see, it’s only about 4 students. You know, right now, we’re in our low season of farmworkers; there’s not a whole lot going on. But we have some OSY, out-of-school youth, who’ve made Henderson County their home base and so they’re there for most of the year and that’s who we work for--I mean with--during this time.
FA: So when is your busy season and how does it look different in your busy season?
JT: It looks different. It starts at the end of May and it’s just--. It’s a lot more doing outreach and visiting the camps and so it’s--. Sometimes people call us and they tell us more or less where they live and we kind of have to figure it out. So ‘you know there’s a big tree, there’s a stop sign somewhere down the road.’ So you kind of have to figure it out; it’s a small town so [Pause]; some trees might look like others but somewhat shaped—very defined. And to really to recruit, it’s like coming in at noon all the way to 9 or 10 PM. You know, I’ve been out till 12 PM because sometimes their parents work. They live in Henderson County and travel to upper South Carolina so they leave the field at like let’s say 7 and they still have to come back to the packing house; it’s like a long drive so they don’t get home till late. But since they’re interested in our help and getting their kids into summer programs and what have you; then they’re like ‘can you please wait?’ and we’ll do special things like that. But it’s driving from one place to another and you drive past a hotel and it has a “suspicious” [his air quotes] looking van, you know, Florida tags, tomato buckets outside or just people talking outside then we have to go for it. And just talk to them, we don’t really jump in with everything but it’s more trying to talk to them and do a pre--.
FA: A pre-evaluation almost?
JT: A pre-evaluation and see where they came from. And sometimes it’s people who aren’t but we’ve been around long enough to kind of be able to tell if they just came into the town to do farmwork. And they’re actually pretty friendly--sometimes yeah--most of the time they’re friendly.
FA: Great, great. And how did you get involved in this, since this is very different from accounting I think?
JT: It is, you know actually, like I said, in January 2010 is when I enrolled in college and then in May in 2010 is when I got this job. And so I wasn’t really into accounting when I got this job and the way I got this job is because, as you probably know, in North Carolina we used to be required to do a senior project to be able to graduate. I think some states don’t and so your senior project is supposed to be similar to a research paper--a college research paper--some students take it more seriously than others; but it was more--. I think it’s a good opportunity for students to look at what they want to do, you know as professionals and so I had to find my mentor whose name is Daniel—you know I won’t say last name. But he works as an outreach worker for Blue Ridge Community Health Services, which is a--which I think started off as a migrant clinic, you know, a clinic for farmworkers--and he was, you know doing outreach. And I wanted to learn about the--. You know, I already knew some of the basic stuff about Latinos and Hispanics and what have you; by virtue of being one [Laughter]. But it was really interesting to see how--. You know, there are Latinos who’ve been in places for generations and then there’s the ones that have just arrived like myself, and then there are those that migrate. So it was really interesting to see how it was—I had never seen it. My dad was a farmworker but I hadn’t really heard much of his point of view, you know of migrating. And so, I did a few hours of community--kind of community service--with him to learn more about his job and about how he did it and what he did. And then, somebody was leaving a similar program--I mean a similar position to his--at a similar program to the Blue Ridge Community Health Program which was the Migrant Ed Program.
FA: Okay.
JT: And so, he went to my house and he told me to apply for the job. And I was pretty sure I wouldn’t get it because you know, I didn’t really have any experience. But I applied and I think I was lucky enough to have his recommendation and those free hours of service and being bilingual; so some things had got me through. So I got involved, and that’s how I got involved with Migrant Education. You know, I went on to graduate from my community college and I worked in accounting for six months in the community college that I graduated from. And I was doing kind of full-time migrant ed, half-time accounting and I think that it was more the work environment in that office that was kind of not ideal. And--.
FA: In the accounting office?
JT: In the accounting office. So like in May, you know I left my job in June which was like, sort of like the peak for migrant season so I was like--. So I resigned from that job which was sad for just because I feel like I owe a lot to that community college. But that’s how I got involved in Migrant Ed and I have let go and they haven’t let go either.
FA: [Laughter]
JT: And actually, now I have something--. And now I work with HEP as well.
FA: Can you explain a little bit about what HEP is?
JT: HEP is the High School Education Program—I think I said that a little too fast. But [whispers something about transcribing], it helps students who are looking for a GED and who’ve worked in the fields to get their GED. It provides them with tutoring, free books, free resources, they pay for the testing but students have to have worked in the fields or dependent on somebody’s income from the work in the fields. And so it’s a little similar to migrant ed, they’re actually sister programs but they’re the little sister. And so some of our OSY do go through HEP; so they get plenty of help, they get Migrant Ed help, they get HEP help. And so that’s where I use most of my accounting skills. I think that my experience in community college gave me you know, a little bit over what the high school students know which is kind of what the GED students need to know; so I get to practice a lot of my math there and you know it being the main topic that students struggle with. There aren’t many accounting questions on the test so I don’t get to do that [Laughter].
FA: Okay, cool. And so now--. How do you--? Do you enjoy your time with the Migrant Ed Program and HEP? And, why do you--I guess--continue to do those programs?
JT: Yeah, I definitely enjoy my time there. Not that I wasn’t a good person before I started--.
FA: [Laughter]
JT: I think being in this program has--. It definitely helps you to mature and see how hard some people are trying and how hard some people are working and not getting compensated. And I feel--. You know, I was talking earlier you’re disadvantaged in high school but then you come--you see these students--and they’ve faced more barriers than I ever did. And so it definitely makes you more aware—or has made me more aware of all my opportunities and so I try to provide the same opportunities that were provided to me when I was, you know, new to this country. But I really enjoy it and it makes me think a lot about the importance of farmworkers; in my community and probably like in the country as a whole. But that it is--that is--also the way with HEP; you get to see students trying hard. The HEP program didn’t really step into Henderson County until very recently so that’s--. It opened some doors for some people so we’re seeing people who really want to get this education in their lives for multiple reasons. I think it really makes you--. Anyone who works for any of these programs, you know consciously or subconsciously more human--more humane--I’m not sure that’s the word. But it’s--. I definitely enjoy it and you know after a few years—I’ve done it for four years—now I know the families and they come back and I know the youth and every summer they’re eager to be there. They know our services and they ask for them; which is good because when you go out there and you don’t know anyone, you feel a little like a sales person.
FA: [Laughter]
JT: Which I always said I would never be, so it’s representative but there I am. And so you know, what helps me is knowing that it’s for a good purpose. Also, to practice just like a bunch of different skills and I get a lot of different opportunities to present and to you know, presentation skills. And I get my work-out as well—just carrying stuff from one place to another. And that work in which to me is very important, I think, for any purpose you know. The more people you know, the more opportunities you’ll have. So maybe I’m the contact or I’m the person making contact with the people that will get me somewhere. It’s really an enjoyable job. The hours may sound extreme but they really are worth every minute—I’m pretty dedicated. So, that’s why I’m still with Migrant Ed Program and the HEP Program; even though it’s taken away from my sleep. It’s for a good cause.
FA: [Laughter] It sounds like it’s a good cause. I guess I have maybe just two more questions. One is: how long do you see that you want to make a career in the Migrant Education Program and what are your other goals since you’ve been in the program for four years now?
JT: You know what, like I was just saying, I really like my job but actually, I’m trying to continue my education to not--. You know, with Migrant Ed and with HEP--it’s impacting one life at a time or one person at a time with whatever service it is and I want to further my education to help more than one person at a time to advocate for, you know farmworkers or for the Latino community in general. And so that’s kind of where I see myself in the future—advocating more; I’m not sure if it’s to the general public or to the people who make the decisions that affect all the community. And so, it’s you know--. I love my job but there’s more that everyone can do and so I think I’m one of those person’s and so I want to be able to do more.
FA: So you said, you’re wanting to continue your education so can you tell me a little bit more about what those steps look like for you?
JT: Yeah. Right now I’m looking--. Actually I already applied to a few schools and I’m trying to get my bachelor’s in Political Science or a Law related field and eventually go on to Law School, and which is kind of a long term but I--. Like I was talking earlier—the bad feeling that you get that you’re going to be in charge of your family for how many ever years—and then you’re going to come back and live with them a few more years. You know, it’s kind of a sad thought but it’s really like the only way, you know you have to make sacrifices along the way. And so I think it’s definitely a sacrifice that’s worthwhile—education—and just being able to, you know in the future just being able to provide in a bigger way. You know, Migrant Ed pays well, HEP pays well--HEP pays well as well--but--. You know, actually, I’m not really doing it for the money. [Laughter] I’m just saying that I’ll make a bigger impact and then I’ll also be able to help my family; which are two of the main things I’m trying to do.
FA: And help your family both here and I’m assuming that you still have connections to people in Mexico as well?
JT: Yeah, I have--. All my close family, my parents and my siblings are here. Some of my cousins are, you know, in the US kind of like spread out and back in my home state--in Guanajuato--I still have a lot of my family and so--. You know Mexico is as rough as you want to make it. And sometimes people--. If there’s emergencies or things that come up and you want to be able to help them in those situations. So I want to be able to help them in any way that I can and you know, the more I build my capacity, the more I’ll be able to help and things like that. And then, you know, so there’s my family here and my family there. I think, you know, now that you get into this mode of helping people then you want to help everyone so I think there’s, you know, I’m trying to help as many people as I can. My family is definitely very important to me so they’re kind of up there on the list; of the people who I’ll dedicate my efforts to.
FA: Okay. And do you think that you’ll end up staying here in the United States or do you think you’ll return to Mexico?
JT: [Sighs] Actually, that’s a really good question and I actually think a lot more about that than I used to in the past. You know the US has definitely like given me a lot—my high school education was free as compared to in Mexico we would have had paid. And so, it has given me, you know, the opportunity to get this job, to be here, even to like to do this interview and you know like maybe in Mexico it’s something that I wouldn’t have had, I think. That’s great but like I said, I don’t know if I would have had it in Mexico but maybe I would have been better in Mexico but you know, there’s no way of knowing. And so, I think, if I want to be able to have an effect—if I see myself in the path to be able to effect the people who make policies, then I would like to stay. But I also, you know, the US--the Hispanic community—needs a lot of help in the US, but that doesn’t mean that Mexico is not needing a lot, a lot, lot, lot of help.
FA: Right.
JT: And so, I think it’s really going to be--. I think time will tell if I go back. I really, really have considered that option. You know, Mexico--. [Signs] It’s a sad situation in most aspects; educationally, economically, you know, security is pretty bad but if people keep backing away from it, and just keep letting people who don’t really benefit from making things right then nobody ever will. And so, sometimes I definitely consider that. Sorry, I don’t think I answered your question. Like I said, time will tell. There are so many things that I have for both sides, for both countries and even if it’s not in the US or Mexico, I still want to be able to have an impact--a beneficial impact--on people who need it. You know, there’s people who need help everywhere. So, we’ll see where this path leads onto.
FA: Great. I think that’s all the questions I have, you answered a lot about your experiences in North Carolina and also how you see that fitting into your experience as an immigrant from Mexico. I definitely learned a lot; is there anything else you would like to add?
JT: [Pause] Maybe, maybe I’ll add something else onto your two hour interview already.
FA: [Laughter]
JT: I think, you know, like one of the reasons I said to stay in the US is because I would be helping those who are coming behind; and not my family but all the immigrants, the continuous waves of immigrants, you know from whatever country that it is at any given point. And so, you know, I want to get there but I think the most—the most—impactful people who are leading the way--. You know, for example Paul Cuadros in Chapel Hill; all these people who speak to immigration and who are really experts at like--. I don’t really like to call myself an expert at really anything but people who are recognized speakers and who speak to and who aren’t leaving their heritage behind. And that’s why I think they’re very powerful individuals who I definitely look up to all the time; like yourself doing all these, you know, non-profits and trying to help students—I think that’s great. And the more people we can have on our side, the best. And so, I think all these individuals have my admiration and one day I hope I’ll be like them, because like I said I think they’re very powerful tools on the way to have, a you know, a more just system—a more just society. So, I think that’s what I had to add. Hopefully this will help in any way that you’re attending to use this. I hope that it’s in every legal manner or at least in every right manner. I think I signed something.
FA: [Laughter] I don’t think you have to worry about that.
JT: I think I’ll stick to the contract.
FA: Yeah, well thank you very much. I’m excited to hear more of what you’re going to be doing in the future and I’m excited that you are here in North Carolina and helping with the Migrant Education Program in particular. So, thank you.
JT: No Problem