Throughout his life, Domingo from Guatemala has had many roles. He’s a father, husband, fisherman, brother and dreamer. And now, at the age of 47, he’s also an Unbound scholar.
“I have always wanted to go to school,” Domingo shared, “it’s just that I was born into circumstances that prevented me from doing it. I had sadness in my heart because I wanted to learn, I wanted to be able to read and write like my friends. I have waited for the opportunity all of my life.”
Growing up, Domingo didn’t have many opportunities to pursue his education. He learned to fish from his father, who, according to Domingo, had issues with drinking. Because of this, Domingo had to leave school at the age of eight.
“My father became a much heavier drinker and I had to look after my siblings,” Domingo said. “I became the ‘father.’ I was the breadwinner for my three younger siblings and my mother. My father did not care much for my education; I was only able to finish third grade of schooling.”
When he turned 15, he was able to go back to fourth grade, but had to leave school again when his seven-year-old brother became ill and passed away from a severe fever. Despite his loss and other obstacles, Domingo’s desire to complete his education continued.
“I continued in fifth grade when I turned 18,” Domingo said. “I was determined to get an education. But then my sister got married, and we had many expenses. I dropped out again.
“I got married at the age of 20; Lucia [my wife] and I had our first baby. My childhood friends had graduated; they were now teachers and some were going to college. They encouraged me to continue my education. But I could not afford it.”
In 2000, at the age of 30, Domingo had the chance to complete sixth grade with support from good friends who helped pay for his school supplies.
“I said to myself, ‘Domingo, you must someday finish high school and be a professional,'” Domingo said. “I told my wife, ‘I want to finish my education.’ She was supportive, but our financial situation was challenging.”
As a father of four, Domingo had a new motive to finish school: he wanted to provide a better life for his family and knew he wouldn’t be able to fish forever. But on a fisherman’s income, supporting his family and going to school wasn’t an option.
Then, in 2010, his son Dario, now 15, was sponsored by Dave and Lisa from Arkansas. Domingo started attending meetings with other Unbound parents, and it was in one of those meetings that he first learned about the Unbound scholarship program.
“I was interested, but wondered if at 45 it would be too late for a scholarship at Unbound,” Domingo shared. “The staff was supportive; they encouraged me to apply. This was in early 2014. I still remember their words, ‘We welcome parents who have a strong desire of finishing their education.’ In January of 2015 I was notified that I got selected to be part of the scholarship program. I was very emotional that I would finally have the opportunity to be educated like my friends.”
In 2015, at the age of 45, Domingo once again returned to school. He has completed seventh and eighth grade through an accelerated program. And even though his classmates are younger than him, Domingo’s biggest challenge has nothing to do with age.
“People mock me, saying that I am too old for school,” he said. “But perhaps my greatest challenge is finding the right balance between my responsibilities as a husband, father and student. Not only with my economic responsibilities, but with many other responsibilities as well.”
His next goal is to finish high school and gain training as nurse, mechanic, accountant or agronomist.
“All of those options are good and would open many opportunities for me,” Domingo said. “Sometimes I tell Lucia I know that one day we will both share the joy when I earn my first pay check as a professional. That’s my dream.
“I invite others to follow their dreams of going to school. Learning is a never ending road because we will learn until the last day of our lives. Find options, you can do it, it’s never too late.”
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