Joliette Osorio and her fifth grade classmates at Salinas Elementary School in Donna are reaching a new milestone. On May 31, the students will relinquish their elementary status and prepare for the next chapter of their young lives — middle school.
The 10-year-old and her fellow peers celebrated the big occasion alongside their parents at their school’s end-of-the year awards ceremony. A special presentation was also given by a former migrant worker turned Border Patrol Supervisor and book author Sergio A. Tinoco. The Weslaco native spoke about his book Proud American – The Migrant, Soldier, and Agent.
Osorio said his message was loud and clear. “I learned that we should always follow our dreams and never give up,” Osorio said. “I’ll always remember his words. They’ll help me to go on in life and stay focused.”
The memoir details Tinoco’s life as a migrant child and his struggles along the way. “I wrote about my upbringing as a migrant worker as well as the struggles that I had with learning English and my own family and friends,” Tinoco said. “They had a closed-minded mindset that this was our life and there’s nothing more out there. Yes, they gave us a strong and hard work ethic which is amazing but they didn’t have an open mind to say there’s so much more out there for you.”
Tinoco had no other choice but to go up against his family. “At a very young age, I had to rebel against my own family and say I want more,” Tinoco said. “I wanted those nice neighborhood homes that they would take me to on Halloween. I wanted to be able to share stories that other classmates shared when they’d say they went to the zoo or the amusement park over the weekend. I never had that. All I could say was that I would pick cucumbers, tomatoes and oranges.”
Tinoco explained that his dreams were unlike those of other students. “My dreams weren’t to become a doctor or lawyer. My dreams were to get out of working in the fields. To do that, I knew I had to study hard.”
He urged the fifth graders to stay focused and not let anything get in the way of fulfilling their dreams. “Every single morning you have to look at yourself in the mirror and challenge yourself,” he told these students. “No one else can keep you from following your dreams and achieving your goals. You have to make a plan. If you want to be a teacher, look around you. If your teachers can do it, guess what, you can do it too. If you want to become a doctor or lawyer, they too are all around you. So know that your dreams can come true.”
He also encouraged the students to never forget their past. “We often hear people say ‘forget the past and move on.’ “I’m telling you, you should always remember your past because it shows you that you jumped that hurdle and climbed that hill. It will remind you what you’ve accomplished.”
Tinoco’s message to the students’ parents was “Don’t detain your children. You need to support them,” Tinoco said. That was hard for his family to do up until they allowed him to join the military. After serving 10 years, he was hired by the U.S. Border Patrol and is now a supervisor with the federal agency. His book has also done well.