Community//

Nico Pengin: “Never give up”

Have the determination to stay strong during adversity. Being an immigrant, working full time, and going to community college full-time sometimes means making hard decisions. Real decisions. Such as whether to hang out with your friends, play basketball, work an extra shift to pay for the expensive classes and books, get more than 4 hours […]

The Thrive Global Community welcomes voices from many spheres on our open platform. We publish pieces as written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Community stories are not commissioned by our editorial team and must meet our guidelines prior to being published.

Have the determination to stay strong during adversity. Being an immigrant, working full time, and going to community college full-time sometimes means making hard decisions. Real decisions. Such as whether to hang out with your friends, play basketball, work an extra shift to pay for the expensive classes and books, get more than 4 hours of sleep or study extra hard for your exams. You can only pick one a day. And as always in life, you get what you put in. So, if you have a weak resolve, you will be easily swept away in anything.


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 Nico Pengin.

People know him online as Nico Pengin. Dominican immigrant not by choice, but fortune. When he was five, he came to this land. He barely remembers leaving all his family and friends. He came with his mother, father, and sister, who only carried clothing and paperwork to this new world. They would go on to share rooms until they were able to afford their own space. Against many odds, Nico was able to graduate from high school with honors and AP credit. A student-athlete by participating in two sports, soccer and baseball. He was the first member of his nuclear family to graduate from college. His story inspired his best friend, an African American young man, to move in with him. Nico would teach him by example, how to be successful and what it takes for an immigrant to achieve the ever-eluding American Dream.https://content.thriveglobal.com/media/12feaf45ee047e88e233969b884f5138


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

Yes! For sure. But first and foremost, thank you for this opportunity.

I grew up moving around constantly. No stable friends. No stable location. From the Dominican Republic to Maine, Alabama, and Massachusetts. Sometimes, you only have your family growing up. So, I learned quickly who my closest allies were in life. I have always been a geek. I crave knowledge. But I am an immigrant. And unfortunately, sometimes that does not equate to human. I find it insulting that some people equate immigrants to savages. I am an immigrant, and guess what? I consider myself a person who loves words. In your language and mine, in writing and speaking, to inform and to entertain.

Our home was right across from a Boys and Girls Club. For some people, this place was just somewhere to kill time. But for me, it was basically another home. As soon as the bus dropped me off, I would bolt into the club and finish my homework as quickly as possible. Then I would do any activity that was offered and appealing to me. This place helped me not to be biased about anything but to have my own opinion. I learned to broaden my interests. There were so many things to do, so I just did them all, even if I was not good enough at them. It was also a place where I learned to persist. I played dodgeball, pool, ping pong, basketball, and refined my chess playing.

I loved how close this place was to my house because I did not need to leave early. I could leave as late as possible, like 5 pm. I never noticed until later, but it was a weight off of the shoulders of my parents. They both worked and did not have time to help me, or my sister with our school problems and homework. They also could not help us develop American social skills by just being home, which the Boys and Girls Club did, and did well.

One thing that I did not realize was that I went to a school specialized in ESL students. It was a great choice my parents made. No one in our family knew English a lot. Thanks to that school, I was able to learn the language. Also, I found some interests academically, like math.

Something I will never forget about that place, probably the biggest imprint on me was the summer programs. One of the translators from the school suggested my sister and I join a summer camp. He said it was to enhance our English speaking and interaction. It was the greatest decision. Really. We both became much more proficient in the language, and we developed our social skills. There, I ate hot dogs, did boogie boarding, took minivan rides with everyone screaming out the lyrics of the hit songs from the radio, kayaking in the Atlantic Ocean. That summer camp helped me experience the American Dream like no other.

Was there a particular trigger point that made you emigrate to the US? Can you tell us the story?

Yes. I was born, and my parents brought me here. Unfortunately, not much of a decision on my end. But I know they came because they had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity they could not miss. Their friend was turning down the chance to come to America and offered it to my family. My dad accepted the ordeal of leaving everything behind for a brighter future.

Can you tell us the story of how you came to the USA? What was that experience like?

I vaguely remember. But I can recall getting a haircut for my passport picture and my dad shaving my head completely bald. Not sure what the reason was. But it was kind of funny because I kept smiling since I was embarrassed for having no hair for such a significant picture. I think he used to cut my hair short every time I would get a haircut, but I probably did not expect it for such an occasion.

Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped make the move more manageable? Can you share a story?

Yes, my parents and my sister. When you are an immigrant, the only ones who really have your back is your family. The only ones who you can trust are your family. Anyone else can be out to get you. But as long as you have family, you have everything, especially when you are not from around here. Having each other is way better in tight situations where trust is needed.

As for a story, when my grandfather first came to Maine in 2004, he said: “Woah! There’s a lot of chickens in America because that’s a lot of feathers”. He was referring to the snow falling in the city. How not to love my family?

So how are things going today?

Honestly, pretty surprising. I never thought that so many magazines would give me a chance. More than one is more than I ever expected, for real. Keeping my focus on writing and marketing books and motivate my friends has allowed me to understand that the American Dream is the process. It is about me changing and growing, and learning, going through many changes. The more I keep trying, the clearer this becomes to me.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Every time a person reads or listens to one of my stories, they find not only find entertainment but also motivational and positive messages. Those who are willing to give me an opportunity, who listen and read my work and my friends’ reap the greatest benefits.

They also give a forgotten population the chance to be known for what they really were and still are, to revive their culture. Every time I bring my stories to life, I make my pitch clear that I have something of value to add.

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?

Such a triggering question. As somebody who has been through that system, I can say there is so much that needs improvement.

First, I would change the definition of the US immigration system. What does it stand for, and whom does it stand for? Once this is defined, then we can decide what we’re going to do about it. For instance, if the US immigration system mission is to help those coming from other countries, assist them in establishing an effective foothold to grow and prosper in this country. The current system is not good enough to serve the population coming in for that purpose.

The second piece of action that I would like to take — if I had the power — would be to choose EFFECTIVE leaders to create a framework to overhaul the immigration system.

The third and final thing that I would do is review what other nations have going on that are effective to the approach they desire to have. I think America has such a weak immigration system because it has not been updated and modernized in a while. In my opinion, their immigration system does not even know what it is doing, or whom it is working for right now.

Can you share “5 keys to achieving the American dream” that others can learn from you? Please share a story or example for each.

Never give up. Cliché, but truthful. The moment you give up, you can kiss it goodbye. I was never too good at high school baseball to make it to the varsity team in one go. I went on as a senior. Through the perseverance of daily training, I was able to get a pinch-hit single to the right field in a home game. I did well for once, for non-baseball readers. Unexpectedly, the coach was so enthralled he decided to give me the game ball. He explained that he never saw a kid work so hard in the classroom, and on the field. Since I didn’t have talent, I wanted to make my hard work carry me the rest of the way.

Have the determination to stay strong during adversity. Being an immigrant, working full time, and going to community college full-time sometimes means making hard decisions. Real decisions. Such as whether to hang out with your friends, play basketball, work an extra shift to pay for the expensive classes and books, get more than 4 hours of sleep or study extra hard for your exams. You can only pick one a day. And as always in life, you get what you put in. So, if you have a weak resolve, you will be easily swept away in anything.

Gather like-minded individuals around you. Having a peer group enhances your accountability. I had a hard time getting people to invite me into their successful groups. Since no one wanted me, I decided to gather my closest friends. This way, we maintain each other accountable in our actions and keep me sharp if I start getting dull.

Cut out the rotten fruit around, as my friend says. Remove the things that prevent you from moving forward, despite that sometimes they are dearest to us. My parents left everything they knew and had to get here. I can and would do the same if I am seeking a better life. If I value my future, I will select the appropriate peers, those who value me, my life, and want to be there with me.

Focus on the prize at hand, do not get distracted. I had the chance to quit many times. I thought about giving up before getting the opportunity to write for a magazine. In college, I contemplated dropping out when I received an F in a complicated computer class. However, I could keep myself on the right path, and overcome any obstacles — even the F — by focusing on what matters.

I got a B when I retook a 16-week class that I had a hard time on. In a two-week winter intercession. Two days after getting that F. I immediately contacted the professor and requested they help me understand the complicated material. After that, I was able to complete the work in time.

We know that the US needs improvement. But are there 3 things that make you optimistic about the US’s future?

People of color are recognizing that there is power in their voices when they speak. That there is no shame in trying to succeed in America. There are more minorities in positions of power. People that have experienced the same or similar setbacks as yourself. It is very reassuring to see them take office.

More nationwide polls are occurring. More people across party lines are voicing out what matters to them. That proves we can come together and put aside differences for the common good. We agree more than we may think. Having access to information like that allows people to evaluate their positions.

If Three-Quarters of Americans support passing paperwork to legalize people that already work and live here, then there is a bright future for the US.

What is the best way our readers can further follow your work online?

nicopengin.com is my website and blog. My work and friends’ are there. Check it out!

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

It was a pleasure, thank you again for this once in a lifetime opportunity.

Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

You might also like...

Community//

Javier Gutierrez of DreamerMoney: “Learn how to manage your money and keep more of it”

by Chef Vicky Colas
Community//

Carlos Barros of AlienMoolah: “Embrace the culture”

by Chef Vicky Colas
Community//

Edward Gorbis of Career Meets World: “Upgrade your mindset”

by Chef Vicky Colas
We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.