One of Florencia Velasco Fortner’s first jobs when she moved to Dallas in 1998 was mentoring students in the Education is Freedom after-school program. In 2005, she was handpicked to lead The Concilio, a Dallas nonprofit working with Latinos to build better lives for themselves and their children. Since then, Velasco Fortner has helped grow the organization’s annual operating budget from $400,000 to $5.4 million. Here, she shares her immigration story.
“I was born in Jalisco, Mexico. My mother had a second-grade education. My father never went to school because he started working when he was 5 years old to help his family. My parents and I immigrated to the San Joaquin Valley. One of my earliest memories is arriving to an apartment that had carpet. As a kid, I had never seen carpet before, so I laid down with my face pressed up against it, thinking: ‘I love this country.’ My mom’s dream for me was to have a job with air conditioning because my parents worked all day in the fields. My dad, even though he never went to school, understood the power of education. He talked to my siblings and I all the time about the importance of finishing school so that we wouldn’t have to work as hard as he did. I remember him telling me: ‘Mija, my goal as your father is to stand as tall as possible in the highest place and then put you on my shoulders so that you can see even further.’ Every parent wants that for their kids, and we try to make our child’s lives better than our own.”