GGC grads advised to forge their own path to success

Graduates hear inspirational family’s story from a GGC alumnus and Emmy winner

Again breaking its commencement ceremony record, Georgia Gwinnett College’s fall semester graduating class of 284 was its largest to date, bringing the college’s total alumni to more than 1,500. Today, one of those alumni shared his inspirational success story as the ceremony’s keynote speaker, earning an enthusiastic and lasting standing ovation from the estimated 3,000 attendees.

Although only 24, Homero Gonzalez, class of 2011, has already obtained what many consider the pinnacle award in his field – and not just one – but two Emmy Awards, through his work at Telemundo Atlanta.

However, as Gonzalez explained to his fellow Grizzlies, success is not defined by winning awards, but by overcoming personal challenges and never giving up in the process.

Gonzalez described how his father spent his entire life working to ensure a bright future for his family. Starting at the age of five, when most children are in kindergarten, Homero Gonzalez, Sr. delivered papers, shined shoes, cut grass, picked oranges in local orchards and even worked as a cowboy as a child in his native Mexico. 

At 13, he worked in construction and at 14, he worked two and three shifts in factories. He immigrated to the United States at 17, alone, unable to speak English and unfamiliar with the culture, but determined to pursue the American Dream. He taught himself English and advanced his construction career. After becoming a U.S. citizen, he moved his wife and children to Gwinnett.

“To me, that is success,” Gonzalez said, “Not fame, not wealth, not awards, but overcoming your challenges. Fighting for and staying true to what you believe in. The awards, the money, the fame, the respect…all of that is the outcome of your hard work and perseverance. True success is proving to yourself that you did it, but most importantly, that you never gave up.”

The audience erupted into thunderous applause when Gonzalez asked his parents to stand and be recognized.

Gonzalez then recounted his own story, and how he was originally advised that because English was his second language, college was not a realistic option for him, and that he should pursue a trade. However, he had bigger goals in mind and enrolled at GGC, determined to obtain a college education. After improving his English skills, Gonzalez excelled at GGC, both in and outside of the classroom, and then in his career.

“You should always forge your own path – and like my father … I did,” Gonzalez said, as he hoisted his two Emmy Awards triumphantly into the air amid loud cheers. 

Gonzalez told the graduates they would face their own challenges, and to define and achieve their own versions of success. He advised them to remain true to themselves and never give up.

Echoing one of Nelson Mandela’s most famous quotes, Gonzalez said, “You are leaving this ceremony today with a college degree – the most powerful weapon you can use to change your life, the life of your family, and even the world. Don't settle.  Don't conform. Go on and do great things. YOU ARE a Georgia Gwinnett College graduate,” he said, holding his Emmy Awards high one last time, “And I am here to tell you, everything is possible!”

The video begins with Tweets from family and friends. The ceremony begins 48 minutes and 33 seconds into the video.

And with that, the audience gave Gonzalez a rousing standing ovation.

“Homero’s story is truly inspirational,” said Lois C. Richardson, acting senior vice president for Academic and Student Affairs and provost. “He overcame educational challenges to become a leader both on campus and in the community. We are very proud of this young man, and we look forward to his future accomplishments.”

Like many of GGC’s students, Gonzalez was the first member of his family to go to college. His experiences inspired two younger brothers to pursue college educations at Georgia Gwinnett. As for his future, Gonzalez plans to pursue a master’s degree, possibly in international business.

“My four years at GGC are filled with great memories,” he said. “But as a son of immigrants who came to this country to give their children a better life and education, graduation has to be my favorite memory at Georgia Gwinnett. On that day, not only did I achieve a personal goal, I helped my parents achieve theirs.”

Gonzalez’s first Emmy Award from the Southeast Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences was garnered as part of a Telemundo Atlanta team of three news producers and editors, who produced the special news series, Serie Especial HB-87, which served as a guide for the local Hispanic community regarding new anti-immigration legislation passed in Georgia in 2011. Gonzalez's second team Emmy was garnered for his contributions to Serie Especial: Acción Diferida under the Team Coverage Category. Serie Especial: Acción Diferida, which profiled how undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States at a young age would qualify for Deferred Action status. 

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