Man Honors His Farmworker Parents in Special Way After Graduating Medical School: 'Victory Lap'
After earning his M.D., Erick Juárez returned to the farm where his parents, Loreto and Maricela, have worked since immigrating to the U.S. from Mexico
A 29-year-old man who recently graduated medical school found a special way to pay tribute to his parents while looking back at how far they've come.
Erick Juárez graduated from the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University in May after earning his M.D., according to a post on his Instagram.
To celebrate the accomplishment, the resident physician went to the farm where his parents, Loreto and Maricela Juárez, have worked since immigrating to the United States in the 1980s, Today reported.
Erick marked the occasion by snapping graduation photos with his parents, including one in the field with his mom that was shared on his Instagram.
The sweet tribute has now become a tradition for Erick, who returns to the farm each time he earns a new degree to honor the sacrifice that his parents have made for him and his four siblings, according to Today.
"I wanted to honor my parents by showcasing them to my friends and the world," Erick told the outlet. "What better way than showing the world how far we've come since they immigrated to this great nation with nothing but their hard work ethic and the clothes on their backs?"
Years ago, Loreto and Maricela illegally came to the U.S. from Mexico in hopes of a better life, according to Today.
The couple, who are each the oldest of 10 siblings, worked on farms in North Carolina and Florida before joining a migrant farmworker camp surrounded by tomato fields near Bainbridge, Georgia, the outlet reported.
"My parents arrived in the U.S. with nothing to lose but everything to gain," Erick told Today.
In 1986, Loreto and Maricela were given legal residency after receiving amnesty due to the Immigration Reform and Control Act, the outlet reported.
"They were actually two of the nearly 3 million beneficiaries of the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act," Erick explained to Today.
Eventually, the couple started a family and welcomed five children, Today reported. Erick, the second of the five, was raised outside of Attapulgus in southwest Georgia, per the outlet.
From a young age, he knew he wanted to be a doctor, so he made every effort to achieve that goal.
First, Erick became the valedictorian of Bainbridge High School — the first Hispanic student to do so — in 2010, Today reported.
He went on to briefly attend the United States Military Academy at West Point before later earning a Bachelor of Arts in neurobiology at Harvard University — making him the first person from his hometown to graduate from the prestigious school, according to the outlet.
This spring, Erick continued his string of accomplishments by earning his medical degree at the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University.
"I was able to transfer that work ethic from the fields to the books," he explained to Today of his success.
Following his graduation, he reflected on his journey on Instagram, calling his accomplishment a "victory lap" for his family.
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"My parents didn't have the chance to make it past elementary (dad) and middle (mom) school in rural México, lindo y querido (they had to help make ends meet on subsistence farming)," he wrote beside a photo with his parents. "So they came here to the US – to work as farmworkers mostly in rural, southwest Georgia."
"My graduation from medical school was one small step for me, one giant leap for fam-kind. It's as much, if not more, a victory lap for them as it is for me. And I couldn't be prouder of them," he continued. "The first in my entire family history/ancestry to earn a white-collar job (to my knowledge). And I get to help folks feel better - the best part!"
These days, Erick has a new challenge in front of him: completing a neurology residency at UCLA Health in Los Angeles, according to his post.
The doctor started his residency on June 24, and though it's only been a few weeks, Erick noted on Instagram that he's already enjoying the process.
"These first days of residency (started on Thursday 6/24) have already been a harbinger of the challenges & steep learning curve ahead, but they've also been a reminder of how rewarding the journey has been & will be!" he wrote.