Eduardo, 22, moved to the United States from Mexico when he was seven and his brother was six. His parents were whippersnappers themselves, having him when they were 16 and 17-years-old. In Mexico, his father was a shepherd and his mother was helping raise her other siblings.
When he was three, Eduardo’s father moved to New York to work and send money back to the family to build a house. Three years later, the family decided to make the move to the U.S. permanently.
FROM MEXICO to TENNESSEE
Eduardo saw a lot of things for the first time in his move from Mexico to Tennessee including drywall, carpet, snow and black and white people.
He said it was a big experience at first but it really didn’t affect him too much as a child. He said for the most part his parents lived paycheck to paycheck, moving the family around make things work better for them.
What may be a surprise to some is that Eduardo said learning the English language wasn’t too much of a struggle and things just clicked for him.
“It was easier because I didn’t have a choice. I had to learn the language,” he said.
Eduardo remembers in the fourth grade at Liberty Elementary his teacher made him feel included and a part of the class.
“Most of the time, [the teachers] separated me because they thought I didn’t know what was going on,” he said.
But in this class he said she made him feel like everyone else.
“We played a math game, the teacher would hold up a card with a math problem on it you would have to yell the number. I was yelling out the answers in Spanish, but the teacher knew the numbers and could tell me if I was right or wrong.”
From there, Eduardo went to middle school in Antioch and from a young age saw disparities in education experiences.
“You really have to experience it to know what I’m talking about,” he said about the school, stating that it made him tougher. In high school, Eduardo noticed a strong presence of gang activity and influences.
“Everyone was in one group or another and before you realize it your group of friends was involved in something, and if you’re not, you’re not anybody. You almost have to veer one way or another,” he said.
He said after he got into fights at school, his father withdrew him and his brother from the school and transferred them back to a high school in Franklin; first Centennial High School then Franklin High School.
At 15, Eduardo got his high school sweetheart pregnant.
“That was a big chapter in my life when the situation arose where I could potentially start a life with someone and do what my parents did,” he said. “You don’t really realize it at the time, but you don’t think like an adult yet. Things came up and by an act of God or whatnot, it didn’t happen.”
Soon after, Eduardo found himself in a little trouble at school. He said he was acting out because of all the things going on outside of school.
“I got into a little trouble there where I could possibly not go anymore, and my dad told me if I wanted to do what every other Hispanic person does, go to work and come home, do it but I wasn’t going to school anymore,” he said.
At that point, Eduardo realized he had to do something for himself.
A SHOT at SOMETHING NEW
“I had never looked at colleges before,” he said. “I mean, it wasn’t even an idea, but one day I walked out of [Franklin High School] and across the street to Columbia State Community College. Everyone has a comfort zone but I think this is when I started getting out and poking holes in mine.”
Seeing his parents live paycheck to paycheck while growing up and seeing soon that he had nowhere else to go after high school made a big impact in his pursuit toward higher education.
“I’ve always figured if someone can do something then why can’t I?” he said.
Eduardo graduated from Franklin High School in 2009, accomplishing something no one else had done in his family before. After graduation Eduardo had an epiphany. He said he wanted to be different person and not associate with the same kind of people or do the same kinds of things.
At the end of his senior year, he sold the car he had been saving for in order to pay for tuition at Columbia State. He said he learned the value of higher education and it helped him keep his head on straight.
“I’m not going to go to skip class. I paid good money for this,” he said when he saw other student skipping class or not doing work.
Eduardo graduated from Columbia State in 2012 with an associate’s degree in Business.
“I wanted to do what successful people did. I had no idea what it was, so I started dressing up. I had pants that were twice my size with sneakers and a suit jacket I got at Target. I was determined to change my image and change who I was.”
He said before, he wasn’t giving off an inviting image so people wouldn’t bother to speak to him, but he noticed a change in that when he changed his attire.
“You have no idea how different people treat you just for dressing nice,” he said. “It wasn’t that nice because I had on sneakers but it opened my eyes up to a new world.”
In 2005, his mother started a cleaning company with one or two houses a week. Now, the family is doing well financially.
Eduardo had been working with them off and on since he was 10-years-old.
“My parents didn’t go to school like we did, so they don’t know what education is like, but they’ve been there as much as they can,” he said. “It’s awesome to know where they come from because their story is a different world.”
After graduating from Columbia State, Eduardo was still looking for a career direction. He found that direction when his mother made a big investment in him.
One day, he was searching for jobs on Craigslist when he responded to a real estate firm post.
“In my mind, I was going to apply and get a job. Nope. Doesn’t work like that,” he said.
After meeting with the real estate firm, Eduardo learned what all he had to do to become an agent, but he was still on the fence about it. He said he didn’t want to spend the money to take a class on something he had no idea about. His mother came to him and gave him the $350 to sign up for the class. He accepted the offer from his mother and started on the path to get his license.
In the class, Eduardo met another local real estate agent who has done well for himself. He gave Eduardo a book called Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill, which has had a huge influence on the way he thinks about business and life.
Eduardo finished all the classes and received his real estate license in August of last year. He now works through Hodges & Fooshee Realty in Brentwood and has already closed on a few deals.
In his spare time, he has been working on an idea for his own business. He’s currently speaking with a few investors around town and building the idea into a reality.
“One thing I started doing to get out of my shell was volunteering,” he said.
Through volunteering and through friends, Eduardo has met people who have needed places to live temporarily so he tells him to come live with him while they get back on their feet.
“I help people in a different way,” he said. “I don’t have money to give them. I have advice or something else.” He said his parents trust him to know what he’s doing and that they don’t really mind people staying with them if they need the help.
“It’s important to try to connect with people and make it work,” he said. “Community is about building relationships and working together.”
Eduardo is a part of the Nashville Chive Bona Fide Chapter, a group of people who get together, doing fun things and supporting a good cause. It’s just a really nice way to give back.”
He said a lot of the Hispanic community seems to be stuck in their shell and said there’s another world people don’t see unless they get out of it.
“That’s for everyone, too, not just the Hispanic community. You have all kinds of people living in those same situations who don’t know what else is out there. I would like to have a way to tell people,” he said.
Eduardo said schools don’t teach people how to get out of their comfort zone and that should change. He explained that he believes the problem is that people have to take that first step and want to do it.
“Who’s willing invest in themselves? Poking a hole in the bubble can lead you to see a little light,” he said. “I feel as though if we could get people to invest an in hour in themselves or their community, it would change so many lives.”