Sergio Gomez is living the American dream.
He came to the U.S. at age 6, knowing no English, but learned quickly
and has become a successful bank manager/loan officer.
Here’s what he had to say about his journey.
Tell us about your early years and coming to Sturgis.
At age 16, my father came to America in search of a better quality
of life. Like most immigrants he worked as a laborer picking fruit,
washing dishes, or doing whatever job he could get. He would go home
every few years to visit family and later met and married my mom. In
order to support our family he continued to migrate back-and-forth and
in the late ’80s became a U.S. citizen. I was 6 years old when he
raised enough money to bring us to America. When I first arrived in
Sturgis I was in the first grade and attended Wenzel Elementary
School. I didn't speak any English and back then there were only a few
Hispanic kids. It was scary because I didn't even know how to ask for
simple things like can I use the restroom or I don't feel good can I
go home. Back then, there wasn't a lot of translation help, so mostly
we communicated through hand gestures and other expressions.
My teachers were fantastic. They really helped me during that time
when everything was a challenge. It was hard enough picking up and
leaving everything behind, but having to relearn a whole new language
There were lots of adjustments for my family but overall it was
amazing to finally be together. It was me, my mom, my dad, and my
older brother living in the greatest country on Earth!
Tell us about some of the challenges you were faced with when you
first came to Sturgis.
As I mentioned before there were lots of challenges. Obviously
language was a big one but even adjusting to the weather was an issue.
I still remember my first winter I could not believe how cold a place
could be. Back home the temperature was never below 50 degrees and we
would spend most of our time outdoors but during our first winter I
don’t remember leaving the house much. School was a bit of a challenge
at first. It took me a couple of years to really learn English. In
second grade I got held back which now I am grateful for because I
believe that it really help me develop my reading skills. By third
grade I was the best reader in the school. Back then we had a program
called Accelerated Reader where you would read a book and then take a
test on the computer. I became obsessed with reading as many books as
I could, mostly because I enjoyed reading but also because you could
win Pizza Hut coupons for free pizza. That year I read more and passed
more tests than any other kid in the school. By the end of that summer
I could speak, write, and read fluent English.
How did you overcome those challenges?
When you’re that young your brain is a sponge and absorbs
everything. So learning new things was easy. I was lucky enough to
have great people around me who would show me positive things. Both of
my parents have a third-grade education so they weren't able to teach
me a lot of book stuff if you will, but they showed me the value of
hard work and always preached the importance of bettering myself . My
dad made it clear to me that the sacrifices that he made during his
youth were for my benefit and I should not take anything for granted.
I was able to persevere because I never looked at my situation as a
negative one, that is I never used it as an excuse. As far as I was
concerned I was just like everyone else, so I was treated like
everyone else. It’s so easy to make excuses and demand special
treatment, but I never wanted that.
How has overcoming adversity helped you to get to where you are today?
I think that having gone through what I did at such an early age
has given me a different perspective on life. I always thought that I
was more mature than other people my age, that’s not to say that I
didn’t do stupid things, but I think I was more prepared to deal with
some things such as becoming an adult and taking on responsibility.
Many people today take what they have for granted. We live in the
greatest country on Earth where you can truly be anything that you
want to be. I honestly believe in the American dream. I live it
everyday. Where else on planet Earth can you move to a place, not even
know the language, and someday become a successful member of the
community. Had my father not made the decision that he made to move us
here I don’t know what would have become of my family. And now
everyday I get to help the people in my community and give a little
bit back. God bless America!
What advice would you give to people who are looking to achieve their goals?
My advice is simple: don’t give up on your dreams. As long as you
are willing to work hard anything is possible. Someone wise once told
me “work hard and do the right thing.” Might sound simple, but it’s
true. For the youth I would say don’t take anything for granted.
Nothing is easy nor should it be. If you want something you need to
work hard for it. Our future depends on you.
With all the social and political issues that we face today, what
advice can you give to all Americans?
With everything that is going on it is easy to lose sight of the
importance of staying united. Everyone has different opinions and
beliefs and they are living under different circumstances. Above all
else we have to respect each other’s beliefs.
Also, you have to try and relate to other people’s circumstances to
really understand why they do what they do. Take my family’s story for
It’s been almost 40 years since my father made the decision to move
here and thanks to him here I am today, a productive member of society
helping people with their financial needs.