My name is Raul. I am an example of the greatness of this country and the value of education. It was April of 2005, eleven years ago, when I came to New York. I was born in a small town in the central part of Mexico. But economic, political, and social conditions of my country contributed to my decision to emigrate to the United States of America.
I was 18 years old. I had $20 in my pocket and a piece of paper with the address of my uncle. I had a huge desire to live the “American Dream.”
The beginning was tough. I had to share a small room. I did not like the taste of the food, and I did not speak English. That was the worst part. I got a job in a local restaurant washing dishes in order to support myself. Later on I became a cook. But that did not seem like the American dream that everybody spoke about. The one that we get to see in the movies where people become successful in an easy way. Therefore I decided to enroll [in an adult education program] to learn the language. I attended the ESL classes every morning before work. That is where I had the pleasure to know great teachers such as Miss Pat. After three years I decided to take the GED test in order to enroll in college. Yeah, college. I wanted to get a degree. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, but I knew that it was going to be worth it. In 2014 I began attending SUNY Sullivan Community College. I was pursuing a culinary arts degree while working full-time at Bernie’s Holiday Restaurant. My boss, Randy, allowed me to work my job around my school’s schedules. That was very kind of him.
They were arduous years. Being a full-time student while I had a full-time job in the restaurant business wasn’t a piece of cake. Stress, fatigue and a lot of coffee were my daily bread. Actually they still are. But guess what? I did it! I graduated.
I am still working at Bernie’s Holiday Restaurant applying the knowledge and skill obtained from college, learning from my co-workers, and making every effort to be creative in preparing dishes and doing what I love. Many times when people ask me how I am, I respond with, “I am living the dream, the American dream.” All this is possible, not only because of me, but because of all the amazing people around me. My family, my supportive parents in Mexico, my brother, the Resnick group, friends, classmates, chefs, professors. They are all part of the quilt (an American expression that I have learned). I have experienced places like BOCES [where I originally took ESL courses] and Literacy Volunteers of Sullivan County where people are willing to share their free time and knowledge with others like me. The Monticello Bookstore, a place where, during my college journey, Miss Pat and I spent over 300 hours just going over my college papers. If I had to pay her just the minimum wage, I would owe her quite a lot of money. Thank you Miss Pat.
I’m not just a dreamer. I belong to what people call “the Dreamers.” Today I am here with a chance to share my experiences in this wonderful nation. There are some people who say that we need to make American great again. I think they are wrong. I believe that American was, is, and will be great. Because all over the world, of all the countries, the United States of America is the only one where you can start from the bottom, but if you are a dedicated and a hard worker, you can find success. You can become what you want to become. You can live your dream. Nowhere else but in the United States of America. God bless America.