Her dad learned English so he could help her with homework. Now she has a Master’s degree from UC
‘The only way to make her dreams come true is through education’
Young Gabby Alfaro quietly settles into bed after a long day of kindergarten. While batting away heavy eyes, she patiently awaits the familiar sound of the door creaking open. Her dad finally arrives after a long night of school — he reads her a bedtime story, but as she sounds out the words on the page, so does he.
While Gabby’s parents worked tirelessly to keep her childhood as relatively conventional as possible, she still faced struggles growing up in an immigrant household. As a result of them not knowing English, she couldn’t ask for help at home because they couldn’t read her homework. Gabby said, “I had to get a little bit of extra help in class versus taking it home to my parents.”
Despite this, her parents stressed education heavily in their home. “I remember on weekends when he didn’t have to work, him taking me to the library,” Gabby said. “I feel like we were kind of learning together. As I was reading a book he’d point to the words, and pronounce it himself which would give him practice.”
Moving from Mexico to the United States when he was only in his early twenties, Alfaro’s dad wanted the best life for his family. He began taking English classes when Gabby was only in kindergarten while doing landscaping at a water plant.
“As parents, you’re always going to want better for your kids,” Gabby said, “Even if I didn’t understand why he was doing it, I knew that when he got back at night we would read a book.” As one of his assignments, he had to write an essay on something that was interesting to him. He decided to write about his daughter Gabby.
The letter reads:
“It is amazing to see how fast some kids can learn the things we teach them. I have a daughter who just turned six years old. My wife and I used to read her books since she was two years old. Now that she is in kindergarten, her teacher said that it’s hard to believe how good she can read and spell. The teacher thinks she’s as good as a third grade kid. My daughter enjoys reading, we try to buy her lots of books. Sometimes we go to the library, where she can read as much as she wants, also we check out up to 20 books for her to read at home.
“That’s one of the reasons why I decided to go back to school. I want to be able to help her do the homework and show her that the only way to make her dreams come true is through education.”
Gabby’s mom found the letter while going through an old bookshelf, within a box of all of Gabby’s father’s old school work. She showed it to Gabby who had never seen it before, who is now grown-up and has a Master’s degree from the University of California Riverside.
“I got two lines in before I was like, ‘Oh my god’ and was emotional,” Gabby said, “I was a mess by the end of it.” Gabby goes on to describe her father as an unemotional and quiet man — making the letter incredibly significant to her.
Growing up, Gabby and her father would often do homework together. “We would be up studying at the same time,” Gabby said, “If he made coffee, he’d make me a cup, and that was his way of saying I love you.”
Though she opened the letter a few months ago, she tweeted a picture of the letter on Father’s Day as what she described as, “A regular Father’s Day post”. She had no idea it would blow up, and had many people reach out to her with their own inspiring stories.
My dad took night classes to learn English and wrote this as an assignment. 17 years later, I got my Masters. I did it, pa. Thank you. pic.twitter.com/9yEhjfYDey
— Gabby Alfaro? (@gabbypatty8) June 19, 2017
Gabby said, “It’s funny because his first concern when I told him, ‘Dad you’re getting famous on Twitter’ was, ‘Did I make any mistakes in the writing?'” She went on to say, “I was like, ‘Really dad? That’s the least of anyone’s concerns!'”
Her father eventually finished school, is fluent in English, and moved up from a landscaper to the manager of the water plant. Gabby majored as an undergrad in Psychology and has just received her Master’s in Education at UC Riverside.
“It’s cool to see how things came full circle — to my dad writing about how important education is to me graduating and becoming an educator now.”
Gabby recently got hired to teach English in San Bernardino and eventually plans to pursue a PhD and become a counselor.