ABOUT CAMINO FORWARD
I am the first American in my family.
My parents left a country under the reign of a dictatorship when there wasn’t a lot of opportunity, but plenty of poverty. Their dream was to start a life in the United States. With time, their dream became a reality. They sacrificed everything to start a family in their new homeland so their children might have a life they had only dreamed of.
But the life my parents started in the United States has not been easy.
My family experienced cultural disconnect, language barriers, and financial distress. My parents put an emphasis on education in order to give their children an opportunity to overcome these challenges. However, education was not the only thing I needed to create a better life.
I needed a career path.
I didn’t understand the endless career options that existed or how to achieve them outside of the family restaurant business. Why? Because I couldn’t relate to the people who were already in those jobs. I didn’t identify with them. They didn’t look like me, talk like me, or come from a background like mine. Their lives were different. I’d never been exposed to them or didn’t feel comfortable reaching out to them the way a lot of other students did. I didn’t feel that I had anyone to help me with a plan.
I wished I had someone I could turn to.
Someone I could relate to who had struggled with these same challenges, someone who had been down this same path. Someone who could provide answers to all my questions.
Years later, I moved to Austin.
I was asked to speak to a group of students. The questions were endless.
“What is college like?”
“What happens after college?”
“What was the hardest part about college?”
My answer . . . “finishing.”
I told them it’s not just about getting to college. You have to finish. I almost didn’t.
I withdrew from college and almost never went back. I had never shared that story with anyone outside of family and close friends. It unexpectedly came out, along with tears and emotion. It felt good to share. But as I left the students that day, I didn’t know how my experiences made the students feel. Had I shared too much? Had I scared them I wondered about the effects of my comments, assuming the worst.
A few weeks later
I received a package with dozens of cards from the students. I sat at the kitchen table reading, crying, and reflecting. The students had written me notes of thanks and appreciation.
Perhaps the one that struck me the most was this one:
I’m dating a “Miguel,” and his father too also passed away this summer due to a medical problem. He also has similar ambition as yourself and when I spoke to him, I told him of your story; it inspired him just as much as it did me.
It Hit Me
These students need and are looking for advice, direction, and help from individuals to whom they can relate—people who look like them, speak like them, and think like them. These students need to hear from individuals who have lived similar lives and can share experiences that will give them insight for planning their future. It’s the same thing I was looking for when I was their age,
but I couldn’t find.
This experience and truth are what motivated me to launch my passion project, Camino Forward.
An idea aimed to encourage students to develop a career path by drawing inspiration from leaders in their community through a series of speaker forums.
These gatherings give students the opportunity to learn from accomplished professionals who come from diverse careers. Speakers share their life stories and paths with the students to demonstrate the positive and negative experiences that impacted their journeys.
This book collects and expands on years of stories, lessons, and feelings shared between students and speakers. It captures a movement in our community, but also addresses a need that students, families, teachers, and schools are facing across our country.
Quite simply, this is a book based on real lives—my own and others I know who’ve lived similar experiences.
We want to help those who are living those lives now. Our common lessons learned come from the unique stories told.
If the book is anything like our classroom sessions with the students, you will dream and hope. You will learn and plan. You will laugh and cry. You will be inspired and motivated.
You will be ready to move your (or someone else’s) path forward.
-Miguel Romano, Jr.