I grew up as a first generation American, born into the middle of a family of 11 (made up of 9 boys and 2 girls) on a ranch near Leakey, Texas. Both my parents were born in Coahuila, Mexico. They believed that in America anything was possible for those who had faith and worked hard. “Si Dios quiere, entre todos se puede” (“God willing, together we can”) was my Dad’s philosophy.
“El Norte” wasn’t a land of milk and honey for them. We grew up on a working cattle ranch, the H.F. Jacoby Ranch, near Leakey, Texas and our first home was an old converted horse barn. Digging post holes, branding cattle, or cutting brush on a hot, dusty day helped inspire us all. During summers, we migrated to California to work in the onion, potato and watermelon fields. To a young person, those rows seemed to go on forever and Dad reminded us that if we didn’t want to do this forever, we had to study hard. “Dale con ganas a tus estudios” was what our parents told us. And “ganas”, that fire in your belly to get ahead in life, was what they helped give their children. Saying that times were tough doesn’t capture the reality of the world in which we grew up, but we were also very blessed.
Our two wonderful parents gave us the most important things in life: a strong work ethic, a loving and close knit family, faith in God, and belief in the power of education. My father, the ranch foreman, would emphasize the need to pursue a good education in the midst of our hard work in the fields. My mother was kind, faithful, loving and patient beyond words and she always encouraged us to do our very best in school. Though they had no formal education and neither spoke nor read English, they inspired us with their generosity, responsibility, perseverance, and prayerfulness.
Later in school I learned about America’s founding fathers and their vision to create a country in which anyone could rise up as high as his energies, talent and ambition could take him (or her!). My parents understood and embraced that American dream and instilled it in their children. My siblings have all contributed positively to society, not only as great fathers and mothers, but as educated maintenance men, a dental hygienist, a licensed vocational nurse, a surveyor, teachers, coaches, and social workers.
While in high school, I came to Tyler to help my oldest brother who worked as a maintenance man for the Fair family. Mr. Wilton H. Fair, a wonderful man, showed me around Tyler Junior College and encouraged me to attend. I fell in love with TJC and Tyler and even though, as my high school’s class valedictorian, I had other opportunities, TJC was the only place I applied.
It was a great decision and it changed my life. My TJC teachers, like Ms. Linda Cross and Mr. Rhey Nolan, were awesome because they genuinely cared about students and their success. Besides great academic programs, TJC’s student life is outstanding. Before long I found myself suiting up as the Apache mascot at athletic events and having a wonderful time. I also studied hard and graduated Magna Cum Laude from TJC. That enabled me to graduate with honors in my bachelor’s degree program and helped prepare me for the rigors of law school.
TJC gave me the foundation, both educationally and personally, to be successful in my future pursuits. Without my parents and family and without the TJC family, I would not be who I am as a person, and I surely would not be General Counsel at Trinity Mother Frances Hospitals and Clinics.
I have been very blessed beyond anything I dreamed, but that American dream is still alive and well at TJC for others, if you have the “ganas”!
- TJC Hero and Friend Andy Navarro, is General Counsel for Trinity Mother Frances Hospitals and Clinics. He has received numerous awards and honors during his educational and professional career and has been involved with numerous community organizations. To name a few, Andy was honored in 1998 with the Valuable Young Alumnus Award from the Tyler Junior College Alumni Association; in 2001 by the United States Small Business Administration as a Tyler Hispanic Small Business Advocate; in 2004 by the United States Postal Service for his contributions to the Hispanic community; in 2004 with Pope John Paul II’s Benemerenti Medal “Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice” for generous service to church and community; and in 2008 by Bishop T. K. Gorman High School with the Outstanding Volunteer Service Award.