I was the first of four children born in a small town to a modest working-class family. My late father worked for an elevator company, where he was in charge of shipping parts and materials to various branch locations for assembly. My mother worked on an assembly line soldering and packaging the components for microphones and telecommunications devices. They were not high-paying jobs at all. In fact, we lived in a mobile home for several years until upgrading to a small home that was barely 1,000 square feet when I was in high school. My bedroom was a converted chicken coop that I could almost touch wall to wall.
But what we lacked in luxury, we made up for in being part of a strong, loving family and an even larger local community of extended family and friends. My mom was always there to help with homework. My dad would give me soccer pointers after practice. And we had uncles, aunts, grandparents, great grandparents, and about 100 cousins all within 10 minutes of our home. I remember being accepted to a talented and gifted program at Duke University in seventh grade. I thought I wouldn’t be able to go because the tuition and airfare would be a few thousand dollars. That didn’t faze my family. My mom and aunts got to work making hundreds of homemade tacos and burritos they sold to people in the community and raised the money in no time.