At Populus Group, we believe everyone deserves the opportunity to succeed. We come from different backgrounds with many different stories and privileges, but each and every person has the potential to do amazing things--sometimes they just need a chance.

We hope today's story reminds you you're capable of great things, and that some grit and hard work can get you to where you want to go. We also hope this story leads you to reflect on your privilege, and how that's made your climb easier--you might have the right, ankle-supportive hiking boots while the person right behind you is hiking a jagged mountain in thin-soled chucks.

Danny's story is about remembering which shoes you were given for your climb, and helping others on theirs, giving what you can--whether it's a new pair of shoes or just a bottle of water.

Danny Soltero

Employee Relationship Specialist II

The story I’m going to tell, like those before me in this series, is about my family and their journey to the United States to find a better life—specifically my dad. I want to share this story because like many other immigrants, my family struggled and persevered to get to where they want to be in this life. I’m hoping the one thing you take from this short story is that with hard work and persistence, you can achieve anything in your life. My life has been shaped with these ideologies and I’m grateful to pass it along to you.

Danny Soltero with two kids in Nicaragua.Danny with two kids in Nicaragua.

My dad came over to the U.S. from Jalisco, Mexico when he was only thirteen years old to work so he could send money back to his family. Over the course 10 years, he was able to finance the immigration of his entire family of 12 brothers and sister PLUS his parents to America. He tirelessly worked long, difficult jobs (like busboy and dishwasher) , oftentimes double shifts, to bring them here—a dedication to his family so they could have the opportunity to succeed. By the time he was 35 years old, he had a chain of restaurants in the greater Seattle region, his brothers and sisters working alongside him to maintain what is now the family business.

My dad met my mother in one of the restaurants he once worked in when she was traveling as a ballroom dancer from Nicaragua. They married and eventually she had me. When I was old enough, we started traveling to Nicaragua more often. As a kid, I only remembered visiting my family and enjoying myself doing kid stuff, but as I grew into a young man, I started to be more intrigued with the country.

As a freshman in college I had the opportunity to travel to Nicaragua with a volunteer group to help the rural towns with their infrastructure, agriculture, and language. On the way there, I didn’t think much of it because what I remembered growing up was it was a beautiful country with many people who enjoyed the simpler things in life. However, as we approached other parts outside of the capital, I started to realize that wasn’t the case everywhere. Throughout my two weeks there, I was shocked by the poverty and living conditions some of these towns experienced. Kids as young as I was when I first traveled there were running around barefoot with dirtied clothes, playing with plastic bottles and sticks that filled the streets. As we drove through town in a pickup truck, these kids would look up at us like we were celebrities and cheered when we came to help them. I was struck with disbelief at how little they had.

Danny and his volunteer group in Nicaragua with local kids.Danny and his volunteer group walking along the streets with local kids in Nicaragua.

When I returned from my trip, I felt so much guilt about the life I got to live in the U.S. and started to think of what my mom and dad must have gone through to come here to have a better life. I struggled to grasp how little I thought of the things I could access and took for granted—things other people around the world would love to own. It forced me to step back and address my privilege; to really think about what exactly it was that I was feeling.

Since then, I’ve made continuous efforts to give gratitude to my family and friends for all the opportunities given to me. It also taught me a huge lesson about poverty and the inequalities in this world. I spoke with my father about this and he mentioned that it was a hard struggle for him and his family to get to where they are now. Ultimately, it resulted in me having a better life and taught me to practice gratitude every single day.

Living in a country like America and growing up surrounded with opportunity, we often forget the reality that a huge portion of the world still lives in. Not everyone has access to running water. Not everyone has access to education. Not everyone can stay in school because they need to work to provide for their family, even as young kids.

It’s humbling to see and reminds me everyday to be grateful. And it gives insight into why people are so willing to leave behind all they knew, their family, and their comfort zone—because to take the risk and leave means the opportunity to lift up your entire family the way my father was able to do.

Danny and his family.Danny with his mom, dad, and little sister.

I hope my story leaves you with a deeper understanding of sacrifice; with a deeper understanding of the poverty people around the world face and are trying to leave behind; and with more empathy for those brave enough to change their entire lives for a simple chance to succeed.



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