“My mom was 20 when she had me in the winter of 1993 in Caracas, Venezuela. Because of my father’s job in the hotel industry, we moved a lot. That enabled us to leave Venezuela in a time of political turmoil; we arrived in the United States just as Hugo Chavez became Venezuela’s president, having campaigned on socialist ideologies. My parents wanted no part of that.

“A few years after arriving in America, my dad opted to leave the safety of the corporate world to open his own restaurant, and Miguelito’s Venezuelan Restaurant was born.

“My grandmother was head chef, my mother was assistant manager, my dad was manager and my siblings and I were helpers on the weekends. It became a cornerstone of the Venezuelan community in Houston.

“My parents, who made the decision to emigrate legally, achieved their American Dream for themselves and their children, but that didn’t come without hardships and disappointments along the way. Yet my father always picked himself up, and dreamed even bigger. Isn’t that what America is?

“Perhaps that’s why now I’m bold enough to dive into the educational opportunities I now have—trying new things, learning new things, and working to make my family proud.

“It’s my turn to work toward my own American Dream.”

“I’ll do it with gratitude in my heart, knowing that many still living in Venezuela—and elsewhere—don’t have the freedom, liberty and opportunities that I have, and will continue to passionately advocate for.”