Celebrating National Immigrant Heritage Month

Midwestern University community member share their family immigrant histories and the positive impacts on their lives.

  • AZ - Glendale
  • IL - Downers Grove
Montage of personal pictures from immigrant families.

National Immigrant Heritage Month

Every June,  the U.S. celebrates National Immigrant Heritage Month. Since 2014, the United States honors immigrant heritage groups and how they enrich the nation. Throughout the month of June, Midwestern University invited our community to share their family’s immigrant history and its positive impact on their life. We honor and celebrate these families' contributions by remembering and sharing their stories. Thank you to everyone who shared their stories!

Sharing Our Stories

Andrea Lopes Sauers, Assistant Professor, Physical Therapy Program

My father immigrated with his three brothers from Venda Nova, a little village in Portugal, to Brazil in the early 1960’s. They arrived in Belo Horizonte, my hometown, with a carry-on luggage with only one pair of extra clothes for each to wear. My father was 17 years old back then. They got their first job cleaning bathrooms in local stores, which now they own. My parents’ sacrifices provided me and my siblings support to achieve our career goals, all current passionate health care professionals. In 2014, I had the opportunity to move to the U.S to earn a funded post-doctoral research fellowship. I have always remembered my father saying to me that immigrating was not easy- it was not for me too. He has always inspired me for his dedication and hard work. I am so grateful for learning from my father that this world is full of opportunities to all! The Lopes family is now spread in different countries in Latin America and Europe, and I am the first generation immigrated to the U.S

Jane Borgehammar, Clinical Instructor, Physical Therapy Institute

I have lived on five continents and English is the third language I learned. We left the Philippines when I was 2, lived in Guyana and South Africa for 9 years, and then moved back to Asia. I remember both parents spoke to us in accented English and talked to each other in Filipino when there was something they didn't want us to overhear. One thing they always agreed on was they expected each of their five children to receive academic and extracurricular honors at the end of each year. Even if I had the highest grades in class, my mother always asked why the score wasn't perfect. The former teacher was the epitome of tiger mom before it became mainstream. We moved back home once my older siblings reached college age; for affordability and to increase the chance of them settling down with somebody with a similar cultural background. Fast forward 10 years later, I moved to the USA on what I thought was a temporary work visa. Ended up marrying another immigrant PT whose culture is as representative of Western Europe as mine is Southeast Asia. I ended up paying for postgraduate education out of pocket, marrying outside the race, and permanently relocating here with a multiracial family that speaks multiple languages. My son summed things up perfectly. He says he looks Swedish on the outside, but his tummy is Filipino on the inside, yet he gets to 100% enjoy all the opportunities and blessings associated with being 100% American.

Tran Tran, Associate Professor, Pharmacy Practice

On April 30, 1975, Saigon fell to North Vietnamese forces succumbing to the communist regime that still stands 43 years later. I am the baby on the top left corner. These photos were taken while my family were refugees in Malaysia before they flew to the US where they eventually settled and where I was born.

Maria Valdez, Adjunct, MPH

My name is Maria Valdez, I am an adjunct Professor in the Master in Public Health Program with MWU, and a public health policy consultant and specialist. Both of my parents were born in Mexico, my mom in a small town known as Huatabampo, Sonora and my dad in the state of Sinaloa. I was born in Mexicali Baja California, in Mexico, and didn't learn English until I started Kindergarten. We lived for the most part in Yu ma , AZ 20 minutes from the border. My dad and mom worked hard for us to come to the U.S. first on a visa, then green card, and then a U.S Citizen, at 14 years of age, when I was naturalized. I am thankful for my parents for giving not only me, but also my future children, one of the best gifts you can give your child, opportunity. If it were not for them, and both of their effort, I would not be where I am today, as an immigrant and first generation student with a Masters degree, as a professor, working on my doctorate. They showed me that, Si Se Puede!

Carmela Trapani, Manager of Patient services MSC/TI

My parents came from Sicily, Italy. My dad in 1953 and my mom in 1955. They met in NY and married. Dad was born a U.S. citizen but never came until he moved here speaking no English and having no job or friends/family. He worked hard all his life. Mom came as a seamstress to better her life and return. She met dad and stayed. They did a great job to give us a better life and keep our heritage strong while still being a proud American. I'm proud of the people my parents were and how they improved their lives and made ours great.

Oriana Trigo, HR Assistant

My grandpa immigrated to the United States in early 1970’s from Guanajuato, MX. He first moved to San Luis, Sonora, Mexico to be closer to the border then in a few months immigrated to the US. Even though his parents tried to talk him out of his idea to immigrate, he persisted and accomplished his goal. Thanks to his sacrifices, his future generations were able to have better opportunities.

Angie Alvarez, Sr. HR Specialist and HR DEI Coordinator

My grandparents and parents were born and raised in Aguascalientes, Michoacan, and Chihuahua, Mexico. My parents immigrated to the U.S. in 1986 to give me and my three older siblings a better future. I am grateful for the opportunities I have had because of their decision to come to the U.S.

Viridiana Garcia, HR Coordinator

My grandparents were born and raised in Jalisco and Michoacan, Mexico. My grandparents migrated to Mexico City in 1962. My parents migrated to the US in 1993. My sister and I are here today because of my parents’ sacrifices. I am thankful for my parents sacrifices and for the opportunity for a better future.

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