Celebrating the Immigrant Families of LIFT: Brian’s Story

By Brian Marroquin on March 5, 2018

Categories: First Person Perspective, Real Stories

“¡Hola, mucho gusto! Jorge Marroquin, para servirle”

I always admired my dad’s hearty greeting. No matter the situation, he would greet people enthusiastically and put them at ease by offering to help. Even if, every once in a while, as a teen I’d be a little embarrassed and plead “Dad, you don’t have to offer to help everyone you meet!” But Dad was ok with that. He still offered. That’s who he was – that’s how my parents wanted to serve others.

My family immigrated to the U.S. when I was just three years old. My sisters were still in elementary school. From the very beginning, as in many immigrant households, educational achievement was of the utmost importance. That was clear to me in so many ways, like when my mom came home exhausted from work but was still sure to read to me before bed so I wouldn’t fall behind in class. Or when she regularly attended parent events and volunteered to help in our classrooms. Or how my dad took computer literacy courses and earned his GED just a few years after immigrating to the U.S.

Both then and now, I could always recognize the major sacrifices that my parents made. Multiple jobs, long hours, stretching when there was more month than money. But it wasn’t until I was an adult that I discovered the many things my parents did quietly that changed my life for the better. My dad didn’t just take those computer literacy courses. He excelled and ultimately became a volunteer teaching aide helping other new students. He received an award for his community service. The skills he gained though these courses meant that after going through a stretch of unemployment, he could find a better paying job with benefits. That meant my family would have health insurance again. That we could pay down debt and start saving. And that my parents felt more secure in making my college dream a reality.

I too was a Dreamer. But there is much that can be overlooked in the debate over Dreamers – or in many cases much that can be intentionally distorted in order to create a political narrative that scapegoats all immigrants. It’s not just a young person striving for a dream. It’s an entire family. It is parents working diligently as change agents for their kids. And it’s not just a promise of a brighter future – it’s parents that are making communities and our country great right now. This came into focus for me at LIFT, where we’ve had the privilege to meet parents – immigrants and non-immigrants alike – who overcome tremendous challenges, set ambitious goals and advocate for others along the way. These parents aren’t just dreaming of a better world; they are making the world better each day.

Why would we want these parents, children and communities to be broken up? I cannot imagine where I’d be if I didn’t have my parents every step of the way. I certainly would not be a college graduate, an AmeriCorps alumnus, or a part of the LIFT’s movement to empower families to break the cycle of poverty. After all, I do these things because my parents taught me to be part of the solution and always ask “How can I help?” – just like they always did.

My family at my sister Nimsy’s 3rd grade promotion ceremony at Barrett Elementary School in Arlington, VA.

For the month of March 2018, LIFT published a series of stories that highlighted the power of parents, specifically those of immigrant families, as change agents. We asked our staff:

  • As a parent, how do you hope to change your children’s life for the better? How does that compare to aspirations of immigrant parents?
  • How did your parent change your life for the better? What if they hadn’t been there for you – where would you be? How does that compare to the risks that immigrant parents and children face now?
  • Share a story of a parent who inspires you and is changing lives for the better

Read the complete series:

Brian’s StoryAraceli’s StoryFrank’s StorySang’s Story

About the Author

Brian Marroquin

At LIFT, Brian helps lead the organization-wide implementation of LIFT’s new two-generation approach. This role includes supporting the Chief Strategy Officer in the implementation of LIFT’s strategic plan and leading local program leaders in analyzing performance and adjusting implementation strategies. Previously, Brian served as the Program Director for LIFT-DC, where he led staff and volunteers Read More