Written by:  Maureen McQuerry

“It takes one person to start a chain reaction for change. I wanted to be that person in my family.”Trinidad Chavez is a math teacher at Pasco High School, but Trinidad didn’t always consider college as an option in his life. It took a supportive community, hard work and a new vision for the future to let Trinidad imagine a different path.

When Trinidad was 10 years old, he and his family left relatives, friends and a community in Mexico, to start a new life in the United States. They came to Eltopia, WA, because they knew there would be work in the agricultural industry of Washington State. His Parents worked the fields picking asparagus and cherries. Trinidad, his older brother, and younger sister helped in the fields when they weren’t in school. It wasn’t easy, between his tenth  and fourteenth birthdays, his family moved four times, from one crowded apartment to another, finally ending up in the Navy homes in Pasco, WA.

Photo by Maureen McQuerry

Trinidad came to the United States with only knowing four words of English. By 8th grade, all of his classes were in English, and he’d discovered a subject he loved a lot, Mathematics. He was good at solving problems and he did equations for fun. He wanted to make his parents proud of him. That same year, when he was fourteen, his father asked his family a question that changed the trajectory of their lives. “There’s a home available through TCP Habitat for Humanity. We qualify, and I think we can do this. Are you interested?”It’s hard to describe the power of owning a home after so many times moving. For the first time, Trinidad had his own room, but it was more than having his own space. He says it gave him a sense of security and stability that let him think about a future that was more than day-to-day survival. It allowed him to imagine a life beyond working the fields. When a High School Counselor asked him if he’d considered going to college, that dream began to take shape.

Trinidad was the first in his family to attend college. After graduating from Washington State University with a major in Mathematics, he returned to Pasco, WA, to teach at Pasco High School, so that he could make a difference in the lives of his students. He was also changing the narrative in his own family. Soon his older brother told him that he wanted to go back to school and get a degree. His older brother completed a program for  HVAC and Welding, and now Trinidad’s younger sister, a student at Chiawana High School, has plans for college. Trinidad says that she’s the smartest of them all.

Their neighborhood in East Pasco started with a handful of Habitat Homes and has grown into a diverse and vibrant community where families actively support each other. A community that is constantly asking what can we do to support you, our neighbors? How can we make our community a better place to live? Last weekend Trinidad’s father spent the day working on a new Habitat Home. They want to offer the same generosity to other families. Trinidad says he’s grateful every day for the remarkable people who came alongside his family, for the gift of community, of a home.