Despite having many responsibilities as the first of his family in the United States, my grandfather was able overcome many obstacles to obtain higher education and have a successful career in the U.S. military.

How does your family and community history connect to your American Creed?

The setting takes place on a rural farm in Mindanao, Philippines. My grandfather and his parents struggled each day to produce enough food to sell in order to pay their bills and provide for the family. Some years they would be profitable, other years not so much. But one thing laid at the core of their beliefs, values, and aspirations; that is, the desire for education.

At age 18, after excelling in academics and sports all throughout primary and secondary school, my grandfather started attending a prestigious university in the Philippines, even though he and his family knew they couldn’t afford it. During his second year at university, he was forced to drop out, leaving him desperate for a job to earn money so that he could later attend and finish his college education.

Upon his search, he came across a United States Navy recruiter. Despite not knowing exactly what “the navy” was, he jumped right into it just hoping he would earn money. He went through countless exams and boot camps, testing both his cognitive and physical ability, and passed all of them. So, he eventually officially became part of the Navy but because of his background and having been born and raised in another country, he, along with many other foreign soldiers, faced many limitations, from serving in combat to pursuing higher education. He could only serve as a steward – someone who cooks and cleans for the other military personnel. While many other soldiers were pursuing many means of education to rise up in the ranks, my grandfather was stuck serving food and living paycheck to paycheck all while finding spare money to send back home to his family.

Cleaning for others wasn’t exactly what my grandfather imagined himself doing in America but he knew that he was earning money and was grateful for that. As he lived through misery, there was one thing that motivated his hard work and kept him hopeful; that was, his aspiration for education. After several attempts of asking his supervisor for higher education, unfortunately, there was nothing his supervisor could do to offer him the extra education he longed for. But my grandfather didn’t just stop and give up there. In his free time, he went to public libraries and spent hours upon hours researching the rules about foreigners in the military. He discovered a loophole that if he would re-enlist in the military, he would earn the privileges of all other soldiers and this is exactly what he did. With that, he pursued further education, studying electrical engineering, which he knew the military would pay for since it would relate to his career in the military.

He finally achieved his dream of pursuing higher education in America. All of his determination, grit, and ambition truly paid off. However, due to his circumstances in the United States, his perseverance was still put to the test. While doing homework and studying for quizzes, he could only read by a candlelight or time his studying before the lights shut out in his apartment. My grandfather was still grateful for the opportunity and never complained about his situation one bit. Within a few years, he would graduate at the top half of his class, amazing considering what he had to deal with.

After earning his degree, he climbed the ranks in the Coast Guard as an electrical engineer, starting a family with his wife who had an identical story to his; she was born in the Philippines, moved to America in search of jobs, became a nurse, and eventually met my grandfather at a military base. Moving from base to base, they were able to have four children, one of which was my mother. With both my grandparents’ hard work and persistence, they are now watching their grandchildren grow up and traveling the world whenever they can.

Coming from such a low socioeconomic status in a rural town in a poor country, my grandfather was able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. He was able to come to the United States with very little money. He was able to work all day to pursue his dream of education. He was able to earn a degree while serving in the military. Many nights, he recalls studying next to a candlelight as the electricity would shut off in his building after a certain time. He had the ability to honorably save many lives all while supporting himself, his new family, and his family at home in the Philippines. What my grandfather has done tells a great story of passion, persistence, determination, and education. He achieved so many things with one goal in mind, with aspirations, and with the concept that he had to work hard to achieve what he wanted. Never did he ever give up on his hopes. With this mentality, and the idea that it didn’t matter where you started or where you came from, he was able to achieve great things in his career. And that, that is my American Creed.




Gerstell Academy Leadership and Change Section 3

Senior level Leadership class responses, section 3/3

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