By Rocío Hernández
Ramiro Franco has always had a passion for learning. The 45-year-old transfer student at the University of Nevada, Reno is on track to finish a second semester. While going to school, he juggles a full-time job at the Grand Sierra Resort and his home life as a husband and father of three.
When he was young, Franco’s family could not afford to let him stay in school. Franco was only in middle school when he dropped out in order to get a job to support his mother and two sisters. As the oldest and only male child, he felt it was his responsibility to provide for them. He placed his education on hold.
Franco’s youngest sister, Lucero Trujillo, remembers that the jobs her brother worked paid poorly. Franco was forced to leave his home in Nayarit, Mexico in order to provide his family with a better life.
In the United States, Franco started a family and became a U.S. citizen. Despite his accomplishments, Franco still felt incomplete without a full education. The opportunity finally presented itself eight years ago when Franco was able to relocate his family from South Lake Tahoe, California to Reno, Nevada. After securing a job at the GSR, he decided it was time to go to back to school and learn English.
In 2011, Franco was able to obtain a GED. He didn’t stop there. In 2013 Franco graduated from Truckee Meadows Community College with an associate degree in criminal justice.
“A lot people my age think that it’s too late to go back to school, that they can’t learn and that it just can’t be done,” Franco said. “Even though I am 45 years old, and I am learning something new. I am going to school to better myself.”
With his busy life, Franco feels that he can only handle taking two classes per semester in order to keep up with everything. Franco does his best to start his assignments early to give himself enough time to complete them.
Jessie Porath, a current UNR student and Franco’s coworker, sees that Franco has to sacrifice time with his family and change his work schedule to accommodate his class and study schedule.
“He always wants to go and get more educated,” Porath said. “It’s really motivating to see him go through with all of this even with a full-time work schedule and his family at home. He cares so much about learning.”
When he’s on campus, Franco enjoys studying, usually by himself, at the DeLaMare Library. Sitting next to students that are the same age or younger than his kids, Franco does not feel that he can fit into a group.
Sometimes, Franco hears his classmates planning to get together for study sessions, but Franco does not feel he should join since the age difference is great. Because of his age and his lifestyle, Franco feels that he cannot relate well to his classmates. These situations make Franco intentionally distance himself from his peers.
“[My classmates] are talking about other things and I cannot talk about the same things,” Franco said.
For somebody who did not have a lot of schooling prior to starting at UNR, Franco said that it is also hard for him to try to meet the demands and standards that university-level courses require. Even after being in school for 10 years, Franco is still struggling to read and write long assignments in English. Math, however, is an easy subject since numbers are a universal language.
Instead of asking his children, who are all fluent in English, for help his daughter, 19, and his son, 9, come to him for advice on their math homework and essays. Franco feels proud in these moments.
“Going to school has been worth it,” Franco said. “I definitely do not think that there [is] anything more important than education to progress in life.”
When he is at home, Franco intentionally does his homework near his son. His eldest son does not like school and studying.
“I am 45 years old and I am doing homework,” Franco said. “He’s 25 and he’s not doing it.”
School has also presented problems for Franco at home. His wife is against him continuing his education and the couple often argues at the beginning of each semester because Franco’s wife does not want him to go to school.
“I believe in myself, I believe in education and I believe that I can make a difference,” Franco said. “I might graduate when I am 105 years old, I don’t care. I just want to prove myself and prove [to] my kids that if I can do it, that they can do it too and that everything is possible.”
Both his mother and son admire Franco’s determination to learn. Franco’s youngest son says he wants to be just like father. His son dreams about one day going to UNR and becoming a doctor.
His mother tells Franco that it can be done and that she’s proud of him. She has told him she does not want to die until she sees him graduate.
At UNR, Franco is pursuing a career in criminal justice. He was inspired to do it after observing that there aren’t many professionals that can speak Spanish. Because Franco has had the privilege to be where he is today, he wants to give back to the less fortune members of his Latino community.
After he graduates, Franco hopes to become a juvenile probation officer to be able to guide troubled youth and keep them from trouble with the criminal justice system.
Trujillo describes her brother as someone who has a lot of perseverance and has no doubt he will achieve his goals.
“I admire myself because I never thought I would get as far as I have not knowing how to speak English or having only a basic education,” Franco said. “I am proud of myself and I think that I trust in myself because I am very stubborn. I think that even if it takes 20 years, I am going to keep studying if God allows me.”
Rocío Hernández can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @rociohdz19.