Passion– I always knew I enjoyed helping people, and when I was in college, I was able to participate in a mission trip in Cusco, Peru that only validated my passion to help and serve the community. What I get to do every day is fueled by passion.
Is the American Dream still alive? If you speak to many of the immigrants we spoke to, who came to this country with nothing but grit, resilience, and a dream, they will tell you that it certainly is still alive.
As a part of our series about immigrant success stories, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Jenay Zelaya, DC, a chiropractor in San Antonio, TX. She joined Airrosti in 2018 and currently practices at Airrosti’s busy Alamo Ranch office. Dr. Zelaya earned her undergraduate degree from the University of The Incarnate Word in San Antonio, Texas, and her Doctor of Chiropractic degree from Parker University in Dallas, Texas. She participated in a chiropractic mission trip and also did a mission trip in Cusco, Peru for an entire summer before attending chiropractic school. In her spare time, Dr. Zelaya enjoys doing anything outdoors such as biking, hiking, running, camping, fishing and hunting. She also likes to cheer on the San Antonio Spurs.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
I grew up in a one-stoplight town called Premont, down in South Texas. We grew up on a big ranch where housing was provided by my dad’s work. My grandma and cousin were my neighbors. We were raised that family was everything. Even though we didn’t have much financially, my parents worked hard to provide for my brother Justin and me. My uncle had a huge dream and business plan in mind, and wanted his family involved. My family thought it was a huge risk, nonetheless my uncle was determined and never gave up. In 2001, SWZ Services Inc. was founded, and seeing first hand the sacrifices and work ethic my dad was capable of, gave me hope for my future. Their success didn’t come easy, but with networking and becoming reputable, they are still going strong. My uncle passed away from cancer in 2013 and left a legacy that still lives on today. My dad is my №1 fan and always insisted that education and good work ethic will take me places I never thought were possible, and it did. My dad sent me to a boarding school Presbyterian Pan American, during high school to better my education. I was the first in my family to graduate from college, as well as obtain my doctorate degree. I honestly owe it to my uncle being determined in wanting to chase his dream. Every day I count my blessings and never forget where I came from.
Was there a particular trigger point that made you emigrate to the US? Can you tell us the story?
My dad recalls growing up in a safe and family-oriented household environment. Due to an increase in violence in El Salvador, my grandpa was murdered and that’s what triggered my grandma to flee the country. I actually visited El Salvador in 2015 with my chiropractic school to participate in a chiropractic mission trip. That meant a lot to me because I was able to see where my dad was raised and learn more about my family roots.
Can you tell us the story of how you came to the USA? What was that experience like?
My grandma fled her dangerous country knowing that it was difficult leaving her six kids behind. She came with the help of a “coyote” and immediately started working in Premont, Texas. My grandma worked on that same ranch where I grew up and worked with the same business that her kids worked for. She saved enough money and with the help of another “coyote” her kids were able to cross undocumented into the U.S. Then, they started working for local ranchers. My dad was 15 years old when he crossed.
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped make the move more manageable? Can you share a story?
My dad is grateful for his mother making the decision to get up and moving herself along with six children to the U.S. My grandma is so resilient and never gave up on her kids. And they are living proof of the American dream without having any higher education.
So how are things going today?
Currently, I work for one of the best companies in the world, Airrosti. Airrosti has given me the opportunity to embrace my passion and serve at the same time. I recently achieved a milestone and was the first female in company history to treat more than 400 patients. Airrosti also accomplished a huge milestone — treating 1 million injuries. I’m blessed to be a part of this movement!
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Every day I’m given a chance to share my story and inspire others. There’s no better feeling when I’m working with a high school or college student, and they say, “I want to be like you or do what you do when I grow up.” Also, having this opportunity to share my story in hopes that someone can resonate and encourage them to chase their dreams!
You have first hand experience with the US immigration system. If you had the power, which three things would you suggest to improve the system?
More than ever is the immigration system in crisis, especially in Central America. I would suggest these three things to improve the immigration system:
- Creating higher paying job for those high skilled immigrants
- Reuniting families that have been separated
- Improving the H-2A agricultural visas — work is only seasonal or temporary.
Can you share “5 keys to achieving the American dream” that others can learn from you? Please share a story or example for each.
- Being persistent– Hang in there even when things get tough. When I was attending chiropractic school, we were in school year-round with minimal breaks. I sacrificed not seeing my family as much and missing out on birthdays and other important dates.
- Passion– I always knew I enjoyed helping people, and when I was in college, I was able to participate in a mission trip in Cusco, Peru that only validated my passion to help and serve the community. What I get to do every day is fueled by passion.
- Take the risk– Admittedly, taking risks is intimidating. I do feel like I took risk attending chiropractic school, and wasn’t sure if I had made the right decision. Looking back in hindsight, I’m glad I took that risk. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.
- Believe in yourself– I would always think to myself that it’s impossible to achieve anything that lies beyond what I believed I could do. Seeing how my uncle believed in himself propelled me to believe in myself and that anything is possible.
- Prepare for the unexpected– During undergrad, my heart was set on attending medical school and becoming an emergency room physician. I was a scribe in the ER, and that’s when I thought I knew my plan. The last week of undergrad, my mother needed assistance in driving to her chiropractic appointment. It was then and there, that I felt something unexplainable leading me to becoming a chiropractor.
We know that the US needs improvement. But are there 3 things that make you optimistic about the US’s future?
- Female empowerment
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Ever since I watched the movie, “Under the Same Moon” starring Kate del Castillo, I felt it aligned with my upbringing. She had the same determination as my grandmother. In the movie, she illegally crossed to the U.S. in hopes to provide a better life for her son. Also, the son’s high-risk journey to the U.S. was similar to my dad and his siblings.
What is the best way our readers can further follow your work online?
Thank you so much for these insights. This was very inspirational!