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Senior finds inspiration in father’s journey to America

Brandon Aguirre, a senior management major, was this year's UW-Eau Claire nominee for the Weinstein Scholarship, a UW System scholarship for high achieving business students of color. 

With Brandon's permission, we are sharing the personal essay he wrote as part of the scholarship competition.  

Brandon Aguirre: Living the American dream 

I believe that everybody is entitled to the right to a good life. Everybody may have a different idea as to what a good life is, but we are all entitled to the opportunity to achieve what we desire.This opportunity is what America has provided my family and many others.

To break or recreate a cycle, one must understand what makes the cycle function. For example, a farmer rents land to produce corn. He takes out a loan to purchase seed, fertilizer and other materials needed to help the crop grow. When harvested, the corn can be used as food and sold to pay rent and repay the loan. But growing corn as a sharecropper doesn't yield enough money to create savings, or provide for a family and a home. So the cycle must be repeated again and again.  

His father's journey

Miguel B. Aguirre, my father, saw and understood this cycle. He also understood that if he did not break the pattern, he and his children, and perhaps his children's children, may be working that same land, living in the same two bedroom house with never having quite enough.

My father grew up on a farm in Mexico. Every day, starting when he was a child, he asked my Grandpa Beto if he could leave that farm in search of a new life. Every day my grandpa told him that he was too young. At age 15 and with only a sixth-grade education, my father left for Mexico City. He arrived in the city with nothing in his pockets. Knowing nobody, he began to search for work. Soon he found himself working on automobiles, making only enough money to eat his next meal, sleeping at night in the body shop vehicles because he had no place to live. 

One day his boss asked him to repair automobiles using Bondo, a cheap way to repair holes and rust, and charge the clients for using sheet metal, which was much more expensive. A man of integrity, my father refused to cheat the clients so he left the body shop and returned home. My father asked my grandfather for money to either open his own body shop or to go to America. My grandfather did not have enough money for either, but knowing the level of my father's drive, he went to his brother and borrowed the money to send my father to America.

My father arrived in America at age 17. He hoped to open a body shop, but he was quickly discouraged by all the garages he saw. Never having seen a house with an attached garage before, he thought that every garage was a body shop. He soon found work in a restaurant as a dishwasher.

One day my father asked the cook "who makes the most money here"? The cook told him that the boss did. From then on my father knew he had to become a boss; he was determined to do so regardless of what anybody said. My father knew he had to learn to cook, and when denied the opportunity to learn, he paid his boss to teach him. Throughout this process, my father never forgot where he came from and would always send part of his paycheck home to his family. 

Today he is a principled businessman who owns several successful restaurants.

As a child I grew up hearing these stories of defying the odds time and time again. From my father, I learned the importance of believing in yourself, and never forgetting where you came from and who helped you get there.

Both my parents taught me that with good values and a strong work ethic, anything is possible. I learned the value of an education from my father, who didn't have the opportunity to attend middle school, and from my mother, who went back to college when I was young and eventually completed a master's degree.

Embracing opportunities and overcoming challenges 

In addition to what I learned from my parents, there were key events that shaped who I am today. During my younger years, I focused my time on karate and received my black belt. Karate taught me how to defend myself, and how to become disciplined and humble in my accomplishments. 

During middle school my parents divorced. This experience showed me that the world isn't so pretty and everyone, no matter where you have come from or where you are going, will face obstacles in life. 

As a freshman and sophomore in high school, I participated in soccer and track, and worked in the restaurant and a local movie theater. Junior year I attended state for pole vault. That year I also broke the school record. My senior year I pulled my hamstring during regionals, but pole vaulted anyway, securing my spot into sectionals. As sectionals approached, I attempted to recover, but was not able to make it to state, and lost the school record. 

Through these experiences I learned to do everything in my power to succeed and if I failed, I knew that I had given everything I had to give. 

Becoming a Blugold

The summer transitioning from high school to college was a summer I will never forget. I needed to make roughly $5,000 to pay for my half of college — my father was going to pay for the other half. 

To make the money I needed, I worked 40 hours a week on third shift in a rubber factory, and from 5-10 p.m. three nights a week as a server in the restaurant. I wanted a college education badly enough to pay the price. I managed to make just enough to avoid any debt my first year in school. Through determination and hard work, I have been able to pay my half of my tuition every year since.  

As a freshman in college, I became involved in the Resident Halls Judicial Board, Delta Tau Delta fraternity, and Blugold Beginnings, a program that inspires middle school and high school students to believe that a post-secondary education is important, attainable and available to them. 

During my sophomore year, I was a resident assistant in Putnam Hall. I truly began to understand the importance of college. I also learned that not every student comes to college with strong values, and that being around good or bad influences can make the difference in the paths students decide to take. My sophomore year, I became the president of Delta Tau Delta fraternity. I joined the fraternity because its core values —truth, courage, faith and power —aligned with mine. I cannot put a price on the knowledge I gained as president. 

During my presidency I had the opportunity to facilitate chapter and executive meetings, set long-term goals, and resolve a plethora of issues. 

One of my main goals was to turn members of our chapter into men of action versus men of talk. We increased our presence in the community through service to organizations like the Bolton Refuge House, a non-profit organization that provides advocacy services, emergency shelter and transitional housing to survivors of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking. 

DTD members donate their time to help families move to new homes, volunteer at the emergency shelter and provide security at agency events. We also help with fundraisers that heighten awareness around issues of violence. 

Participating in events like these helped us rebrand the term "fraternity." 

Every day we remind one another that we are men of excellence and leaders in the community. It is our job to set an example. 

Looking to the future 

I accepted a summer internship as a logistics engineer with CNH Industrial, a global corporation that designs, produces and sells agricultural and construction equipment, trucks, commercial vehicles, buses and specialty vehicles. 

In the future, I plan on graduating from college with a degree in operations/supply chain management, and joining the workforce. 

One day I hope to start my own business and begin a family. 

Most importantly, I will tell my story and my father's story to the generations younger than me so that they will never forget where they came from.