At first glance, Rafael Acero is sure to catch your attention. Whether it’s his amazing red frames or infectious smile, his positive aura can be felt by all around him. Throughout his life, Acero has prided himself on being someone who finds the positive in any situation. One of six children, Rafael and his family grew up in one of the largest slums in Mexico City but still says he lived a happy childhood.
“I know what it’s like growing up with very little, but I didn’t realize what I was missing at the time,” says Acero.
Even through tough circumstances, he says his parents’ resilience was a major inspiration.
“Sometimes my mother would skip meals so we would have food to eat, and my father always worked hard to provide for us – he’s my hero,” he adds.
His father was always a huge advocate of education and made sure to instill that in his children. He would often remind them that education would open doors for them and provide opportunities that would change their lives for the better. After working odd jobs for years, Acero’s father was able to put himself through college and became a math teacher to provide a better life for his family, and that’s exactly what he did. When Acero was 14 years old, his father was presented with an opportunity to teach in Compton, Calif., and he jumped at the chance.
“Unfortunately the whole family couldn’t move right away, so my father took myself and one of my brothers to California with him while my mother remained in Mexico with my siblings,” Acero says.
Eventually, the family reunited in California.
As Acero embarks on his first year of teaching, he’s excited to celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month with his students.
“Not only is this a time to celebrate contributions of Hispanic-Americans, it also invites others to be proud of their roots,” he adds. “It’s important to know where you come from to know where you’re going.”
When naming people, like his father, who have influenced him, Acero also credits Mexican painter Frida Kahlo.
“She was so resilient and was the definition of making the best out of a terrible situation,” he says about Kahlo.
As Acero, Kahlo has been credited as using difficult situations to fuel her accomplishments.
It’s Hispanic success stories like this that Acero shares with his Spanish students at Cardwell Prep in order to inspire them and open their eyes to what they too can achieve despite challenges they may face.
“Language goes hand in hand with culture, and I try to make sure my students take a piece of culture with them each day,” he says.