Daniels Fund scholar credits parents for skills, attitude
Glenwood Springs, Colorado CO
On April 24, Hector Morales’ mother, Norma Galindo, was taken into custody by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials on a removal order.
The day before, Hector had learned that he was selected to receive a Daniels Fund college scholarship that would allow him to attend Duke University.
After 18 days of uncertainty, Hector’s mom was released on Friday, May 11, and given a one-year stay. Here Hector talks about his family and the past month.
Hector Galindo Morales: My parents both came from Mexico. My dad is from Mexico City, and mom is from Puebla. They came to the United States 20 years ago looking for a better opportunity. They came to Los Angeles at first, where my mom worked as a babysitter and my dad did menial jobs, anything he could find.
Finally he got a job with a restaurant, and the owner had another one in Aspen. They were impressed with my dad’s work, and eventually they asked him to move to the Aspen area. My brother and I were both born here in the valley.
I was born in Aspen in 1993 and have lived in Basalt ever since. I was fortunate to have been able to learn English at school as a little kid. I grew up speaking both languages pretty proficiently.
Gallacher: Tell me about your dad.
Morales: My dad is a very hardworking, motivated man. Just this last year, he started his own property management business. He was tired of being in the heat of the kitchen all day and wanted to be outside, so he started looking for something different.
He got a job with a property management company in Snowmass and really liked it, and after a couple of years he decided to try it on his own. He has a passion to succeed and better himself, as well as his family. That’s why we have been well provided for up until now.
Gallacher: What about your mom?
Morales: My mom is the loving, caring part of our family. She always has a smile on her face and is a second mom to a lot of my friends. She is very involved with the girls at our church and leads the tambourine worship team. She comes to all my athletic events and academic award presentations.
I guess she is like the backbone of our family, the one who keeps us together while my dad is off working. She is the communication between our father and us because my brother and I are always busy with sports and activities and my dad is always working.
Gallacher: Is she a good cook?
Morales: She’s a great cook. I love her green chili enchiladas.
Gallacher: What part of you is your father?
Morales: I think it’s the part that makes me strive to improve, that doesn’t let me limit myself. I think I inherited his competitive edge. I’m pretty sure that’s why I am so into sports.
Gallacher: What about your mom?
Morales: I like to think that I get my loving and caring side from her. I’m a very friendly person, and I think I learned that from her. Also she does not let me give up. She has always been there helping me push through hard nights doing homework. I think she has been the biggest influence on me because my dad was always working.
So when she was in detention, it was very hard to come home and not see her face. I missed being able to come home and let everything out. She is the one I can always open up to. Even when times are hard she is the one who keeps me going. I missed her simple words of motivation.
But I knew that she wanted me to take care of my younger brother and stay focused on my schoolwork. I missed her support that kept me going every day.
Gallacher: And when you did get a chance to talk to her, what did she tell you?
Morales: Despite all the uncertainty she stayed positive and told me to keep going and not let the trouble derail my dream of attending Duke and getting on with my life. Even though she was in detention she was still very encouraging to me.
We only got five-minute phone calls for the whole family, so it was hard for everyone to get a chance to talk to her. I got a minute or two, but it was never enough.
Gallacher: You have excelled in school and in sports. Can you talk about your recent accomplishments?
Morales: This year I was named the Western Slope high school soccer player of the year, and I have been accepted to Duke University, and I am one of the recipients of the Daniels Academic Scholarship.
Gallacher: Did school come easy for you?
Morales: Yes and no. I had to give up a lot of lunches and stay after school to get help from teachers. It got easier when I really became dedicated to studying and gave 110 percent.
Gallacher: Where did that dedication come from?
Morales: Seeing my dad and mom work so hard, I saw school as my job, basically. I saw it as my duty to take advantage of the opportunities that my parents didn’t have. I thought doing well in school was the way I could pay them back for all their hard work. Seeing them work hard motivated me to work hard in school and in sports.
Gallacher: What was it that got you through your mother’s detention?
Morales: It was really hard. The first couple of days didn’t even seem real to me, it happened so quick. Emotionally I knew I had to stay strong even though there were times when I wanted to break down and let it all out. But I knew that wouldn’t help her or my brother or my family. So as hard as it was, I tried to stay strong.
Gallacher: How did you let it out? Did you have anyone you talked to?
Morales: Yes, actually people came up to me and offered their support. That helped me get my mind off of it. We just had our prom, and everyone made sure that I wasn’t thinking about the situation with my mom. Everyone understood my situation, and they helped me move through it.
I play soccer a lot, and that’s my way of letting it all out. Ever since I was little, sports has been the way I’ve dealt with my problems.
Gallacher: Did the larger community reach out to you?
Morales: Yes, I got calls from people in Denver and my mentors at CU Boulder, and the people at Duke called me and let me know that I could count on them for support.
I am a soccer coach for first- and second-graders, and the kids’ parents came up to me and let me know that they were there for me. They told me that they had heard great things about me and that they would do what they could to help my mother out.
Gallacher: Do you like working with kids?
Morales: Yes, I do. I’m in the Buddy program through YouthZone, where I mentor younger kids. I think kids need guidance, and many times, as I was growing up, I needed somebody because my parents weren’t from here and didn’t know the ropes of the education system. They didn’t understand how everything worked, so I have dedicated myself to helping kids like me who need that extra help.
Gallacher: How did you figure out how things work?
Morales: In seventh grade I joined the PreCollegiate program, which is a program for first-generation college-bound students. The program provides mentors, and those mentors help students figure out their classes and help get them out in the community volunteering. For me, it was the PreCollegiate program that helped me get a path to follow. It helped me get in the mindset of taking college classes, being responsible for my own actions and managing my time.
Gallacher: Did you let yourself think about what you would do if your mother had been deported?
Morales: It was in the back of my head. I didn’t let myself think about it much. I did think about still going to Duke, but I really didn’t feel like I could leave my younger brother because I knew my dad would have to work and my brother would be alone.
It was hard to stay focused on school when so much was changing with my family. But my parents taught me to never give up. I think they stress that because they don’t want me to look back on my life and have regrets.
Gallacher: There are some in the community who think your mother should have been deported. What would you say to them?
Morales: I can understand some of their concerns, but I would say that our family has been a benefit to the community. We have given back more than we have taken. I think that when immigrants improve their community and don’t take advantage of it, they should be allowed to stay.
Gallacher: So you will go to Duke this fall?
Gallacher: What do you want to study?
Morales: I want to study civil and environmental engineering. I want to explore how we can be more productive and efficient with our natural resources.
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