David Velasquez, Harvard Medical and Business School Graduate, on His Family Story


When David Velasquez’s parents emigrated from Nicaragua to the United States, they were dropped off at a gas station in California. They spoke no English, had no family or friends, and could not afford clothes or diapers for their young children. Finding work was a challenge as his mother and father have a a fifth- and third-grade education, respectively. David’s father stood on the street corner to pick up jobs as a day laborer to earn income for his family.

Despite his family’s financial precarity, David excelled in school from a young age. When he was just three years old, his preschool teacher said to his mother, “Do you know you have a genius in your family? We have to take advantage of him in school. He is extraordinary, he’s going to be someone important.” This year, David will become the first person in the history of Harvard to graduate from Harvard Business School, Harvard Kennedy School, and Harvard Medical School at the same time.

Teen Vogue spoke with David and his parents, Calixto and Sara Velasquez, via Zoom about their experience immigrating to the United States and David’s remarkable achievements.

This conversation has been condensed and edited for clarity.

Teen Vogue: Mr. and Mrs. Velasquez, when you arrived in the United States, what were you expecting of yourself and David?

Calixto Velasquez: We arrived with an idea to prosper. We wanted to advance using hard work and effort. My wife’s first job was cleaning for just $2.25/hr. A Catholic church took us in. Women searched for food and cooked, and men would stand on the corner and take random jobs that came up. We did whatever it took to survive for our family. We wanted a good life for our four boys. We had the opportunity to work, and our focus was for them to get to school.

Calixto and Sara Velasquez

Sara and Calixto Velasquez

TV: As parents, did you focus more on David’s academic performance or developing his character?

Sara Velasquez: We focused on character traits. Discipline was very important to us. We told our sons to be punctual so that they can be even better, honest, and responsible people. When they came home from school, yes, we wanted them to do their homework. We never wanted them to miss school. But we also wanted kind children.

We saw how kind David was when he was young. In first or second grade, he knew we didn’t have much to eat at home. At school he was given food to eat. One day after school, from his sock, he took out two chicken nuggets and he gave them to us because he knew we were hungry. Since then, we knew he wanted to do something for our family.

TV: David, what challenges did you face when navigating your own educational experience?

David Velasquez: I grew up in the Los Angeles area and did grade school in Antelope Valley. We moved around and changed schools every two years due to Section 8 housing vouchers ending often. The schools I attended had a lot of fights and gangs. I just focused on running, basketball, and math.

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Tags: education, family, harvard university, healthcare, immigration, schools, students

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