The deadline for renewing DACA status for some 800,000 so-called Dreamers in the United States has recently passed. Most dreamers renewed or at least have some time left in their status. But not all. Diego Corzo is a lucky Dreamer. He has already renewed his status and is fine until May 2019. What’s important about Diego is that his life symbolizes the lives of other Dreamers like him. It is a story worth telling.
In Diego’s case, he didn’t wait for opportunity to knock. In fact, overcoming obstacles is the reason Diego is where he is today – whether it is in renewing his DACA status, or in other matters, he is pro-active. At just 26 years old, he says he is pursuing his dream career as a realtor and a partner at Keller Williams. He owns several rental properties. In fact, Diego describes himself as, “financially free in America.”
Embrace Adversity and Overcome Obstacles
Diego’s winning philosophy is to, “focus on your vision, not your current circumstances.” He believes that if you can change your perspective, you can change your reality.
Like in the case of most Dreamers, Diego’s family came to the United States legally when he was just nine years old, but due to declining circumstances in Peru, they overstayed their visa. To survive they had to be resourceful. He picked up that skill early. He relates how he first got a T.V. set. “I asked my dad to buy a new TV when I was 10 years old. When he told me it was $100 and he didn’t have it, I decided to earn the money and buy it.” Later, he carried on his resourcefulness to buy his first Macbook Pro, something his parents couldn’t afford. He sold candy at his high school to raise the money.
Despite these successes, without proper documentation, living the American dream was very difficult. Diego and others like him couldn’t get jobs, couldn’t legally go to school or drive and in many cases struggled to find housing and other amenities. Somehow, he managed to get an education and studying hard, eventually got accepted as a student at Florida State University. “I got into Florida State University, but I couldn’t qualify for any student loans to help me pay my way through college. I won scholarships, but they were taken back because I didn’t have a green card.” Diego attempted to find jobs to pay for school, but no one would hire him because he didn’t have a work permit. So, being resourceful as he was, he created his own LLC and worked in the IT field as a contractor to pay his way through school.
It wasn’t until his senior year in college, 2012, however, that Diego really caught a break. Obama passed the DACA policy which allowed children brought to the U.S. by their parents to work and drive. The new policy was a game changer for Diego and thousands just like him. It is what allowed him to get his first job after graduating with two bachelor degrees and start his life with a protected status.
Diego moved to Austin, Texas after college. There he realized most of his monthly expenses will be housing expenses, so he asked himself how he could minimize that expense and live for free. He decided to buy a home with little money down, live in the master bedroom and rent out the extra rooms to roommates. The rent payments he was getting from his roommates paid for his entire mortgage and even his car payment. Diego was now living for free. This strategy has become known as House Hacking. In less than four years since getting DACA, he grew his net worth to $400,000 and quit his corporate job to pursue a real estate career.
Use Past Struggles as a Way to Impact the World
Even now that Diego is an up and coming real estate investor, he doesn’t forget his past. “The reason I tell my story is to make an impact. I want to show Americans that if I was able to build the life I have now in four years because of DACA, they can do it too.” According to Diego, the truth is that we don’t need to be born into wealth or fame to create success. We just need to shift our focus and mindset. “My motto in life — thanks to my mentor, Adam Carroll — is ‘Live a Bigger Life, not a Bigger Lifestyle’ and by living this motto I have created my dream. As for the Dreamers, Diego believes given half a chance, they can be as successful as he was. Whether or not they are as successful as Diego, most Dreamers have Diego’s spirit of entrepreneurship and love for America. That’s why they are worthy of our support.
This article is reprinted from an article formerly published in the Forbes.