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This I Believe

KUHF-Houston Public Radio’s “This I Believe” with Sam Dominguez

Sam’s life story is like something right out of a book. He was the youngest of seven children born to a family in the small Mexican town of Saltillo…north of Monterrey. Sam’s family was dirt poor, but his parents taught the value of hard work and always stressed the importance of education. When he was nineteen, Sam immigrated to the Houston area. He worked in many low paying jobs…he spoke no English and says he felt the sting of poverty and racism. One day, with his three year old son in tow, Sam went to a Houston Community College campus to inquire about classes. They enrolled him on the spot. He went on to get his Associate Degree in Computer Science. He enrolled in the University of Houston and in time received a Bachelor’s degree in Applied Mathematics. He became certified to teach and has since received his Masters in Education and Leadership. He’s now a dissertation away from his Ph. D. from the University of Houston. He’s also in line to become an H.I.S.D. high school principal. Sam says his interest is in helping student known as “repeaters”…those who come from challenging situations and need a little more attention than the average student. It’s something he can identify with.


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Sam Dominguez has overcome more challenges than most. He has become a role model like those he relied on as a young man. He’s helping underprivileged students like he was and giving them…many for the first time…a chance to succeed in academics. Sam Dominguez’ success is a testament to his own hard work, and he’s quick to thank those role models, including his own mother, who motivated him to keep trying and to continue pursuing education. Sam Dominguez has an unyielding belief in the value of positive role models. He’s also a living tribute to the power of hope.

Here’s Sam Dominguez with his essay for KUHF’s This I Believe.
“I came to this country when I was barely 19 years old. As many immigrants before me, I arrived full of hope for a better life but alone and afraid of an uncertain future. Without marketable skills, unable to communicate in English, and without the benefits of a formal education, I was headed toward a life of poverty and abuse in the rough neighborhoods of North Houston.

Returning to my family in Mexico was not an option for me because I did not want to return defeated and empty-handed. I often thought about my mother’s confidence in me. She always instilled in me the hope that tomorrow will be better than today, and she always made me believe that I will always find a way to succeed no matter how many obstacles were in my way. I believe her high expectations for me, gave me the strength and resilience to continue on in my search for success.

Not knowing how to break the cycle of poverty, I spent many months and even years in despair. I blamed everyone else for my trouble. It never occurred to me I had the power to change my destiny. One day, I watched a documentary about the remarkable life of Dr. Guadalupe Quintanilla. Like me, she came to this country poor and uneducated. But unlike me, she took control of her life by working all day to support her family and by attending school at night. After years of sacrifice, she obtained success in the form of a Ph. D. and by working as Dean of Student Affairs at the University of Houston.

Discovering her story gave me hope and showed me the way to success. That is why I believe in the awesome power of positive role models. Knowing about her gave me the courage to go to Houston Community College and to enroll in my first class ever in the United States, English as a Second Language 101.

Like her, after many years of struggle and sacrifice I am about to complete my doctorate at the University of Houston.

As an educator now, I look back and realize that those around me gave me the skills I needed to succeed. My mother and Dr. Quintanilla showed the way to overcome the challenge of poverty and mediocrity is through academic success. Together they gave me hope. And I believe this is the primary function of teachers…to set high expectations, to be positive role models, and most importantly, to give hope to children of poverty.

This, I believe.”