TAMPA, Fla. - A woman who went from working in the fields to the board room is an inspiration for anyone who comes to the United States to build a better future.
"I was raised in a little town called Wimauma, Florida, right here in Hillsborough County. My parents brought us when I was probably about seven years old to work the fields. So we ended up in that little town and we traveled around Michigan and Indiana. Just follow the crops," recalled Rocio Smith, who was born in Mexico. "When you're with your parents, when you're with your family and you're all united, you're traveling, you're together. So in that sense, it was a really happy adventure, as I call it."
Rocio is now the market vice president at Achieva Credit Union. As she reflects on her childhood, she's thankful for the experiences that brought her here.
Not all of the adventures of her childhood were happy. Her family had to navigate unfair wages, long working hours, and moving from city to city to find work.
She says her experiences made her tough and ready to take on the world.
When Rocio was 16, she took that work ethic to high school, earned some scholarships and went to the University of South Florida. She got her degree in psychology and became a mental health counselor.
"I think that was a ticket out. I knew that I could help [my family] more if I had that education. I knew early on that that was going to be the way that I was going to help and give back. And so I'm super thankful for my parents," she explained.
She remembers a time as a child when her mom took her to the bank and the teller wouldn't touch her money.
"When you pick tomatoes, you get all that green pasty residue. And the lady wouldn't touch her money. I remember that. That stuck in my head and I said, 'One day I'm going to be, you know, working in the banking industry." Rocio said.
She never forgot that experience or her dream of working at a financial institution and helping the less fortunate.
"If you work hard, if you study hard, because education, at the end of the day, is the key to everything. That's where you can make a difference. That's where we're going to give back. That's where you're going to help your parents financially," she said. "I've had a lot of failures, but nowhere in those values did they not make me a strong person. And so you're going to fail and it's OK, you're going to struggle. And that's why it's basically staying the course. At the end of the day, you keep running at it and you'll reach your goals."