By Eleazar Guitierrez, Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute
The National Migrant Seasonal Head Start (NMSHSA) Internship Program served as the stepping stone and motivation for me to realize that I can achieve goals that were even greater than those I had ever imagined. I, Eleazar Gutierrez, the son of two immigrant agricultural farmworker parents, was given the opportunity to intern in our nation’s capital at the Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs (AFOP).
As I walked the streets of downtown D.C., staring at tall government building and national monuments, I can’t help but admit that I missed seeing the miles of grape vineyards, orange trees, and potatoes fields that surrounded my hometown of Arvin, CA. Yes, I was filled with the fear of the unknown, but I knew that, thanks to my parent’s hard work and sacrifices, I had worked hard to achieve the opportunity of interning in Washington D.C., and I had to make every moment count.
I learned the importance of advocating for farmworker youth through working on AFOP’S Children in the Fields Campaign, and was exposed to the reality of farmworker youth and parents who pick tobacco leaves to provide for their families. I heard their stories and made it a point to share them, not so that others could have sympathy for us, but for the fact that they are a representation of thousands of farmworker youth who are raised in hardworking communities across the nation by strong parents who pick the country’s fruits and vegetables. People consume those fruits and vegetables wevery day, and don’t give a thought to where they come from. These families deserve our support, and I was humbled to share a bit of their story.
Nearly five years later, I am a young professional who learned the importance of making goals a reality. I decided to stay in D.C. and follow my goal of representing my farmworker community at a national level and continuing to share our story. Today I currently work at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHCI), leading a portfolio which gives high school youth the opportunity to visit our nation’s capital for an all-expenses-paid program opportunity. I am part of an incredible team with one shared mission of “Developing the Next Generation of Latino Leaders”.
I’ve continued to build relationships with mentors who have provided endless support and opportunities, individuals that l consider family. I continue to grow professionally and personally. I push myself to take on new challenges. I’ve become a millennial homeowner, and learned the importance of responsibilities, and budgeting. I’ve taken the time to look back and reflect and thank God and life for all the lessons of growth.
It hasn’t been an easy journey, and I feel that parts of it are just starting. Something I do know is that my journey will always include the support of my parents, family, and extended NMSHSA Familia, a network filled with other parents, dedicated educators, and young children who will achieve goals greater than those they ever imagined.
Eleazar is currently the Associate Manager for High School Leadership Programs at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute. He was raised in a small agricultural community in Arvin, CA, and, after his internship with NMSHSA, decided to pursue a career on the east coast.