It took only one hour to change Francisco "Tony" Moran's life. Since he was about 6 years old, Moran grew up in New Mexico's Hatch Valley, working on farms alongside his parents and siblings. However, Moran's parents wanted more for their children and emphasized getting a good education.
Moran graduated fourth in his high school class in 2003. At various times in those years, Moran's family lived in Tierra del Sol's agricultural housing communities. He began college, but struggled in his engineering degree program, barely making a 1.2 grade point average. At the time, he felt frustrated and uncertain if staying in school was a good idea. Then Moran met Larry Salazar, a Tierra del Sol board member and recruiter for a U.S. Department of Education program called the College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP). In addition to providing safe, affordable housing for farmworker families, Tierra del Sol connects families to other resources in the community like CAMP. Salazar spent about an hour talking to Moran and suggested trying accounting as a major.
This seemingly small act resulted in Moran finding his "niche." He graduated from New Mexico State University in 2008 with a master's degree in accounting.
Today, Moran works alongside Salazar on the Tierra del Sol board of directors. Moran is excited about helping families and kids because he understands the struggle.
"I work really hard, but I know what it's like to be out in the fields making $7 minimum wage," he says. "Nothing is harder than that."
Moran now is able to devote his time and talent to helping families with their taxes, accumulate savings and improve their homes. He also enjoys participating in Tierra del Sol's Self Help Housing program.
"The thing I enjoy about working with families in this program is that they get to put their own time and effort into building a home, and parents take great pride in being able to provide a real home for their children," says Moran.
Moran's story reflects the kind of support Tierra del Sol has provided families in rural New Mexico and Texas for the past 44 years. The organization provides opportunities for low- to very-low-income families, from self-help housing, to rental housing for farmworkers, to supportive housing for the elderly and the disabled. It has offices in Las Cruces and El Paso, with service areas in 20 counties in New Mexico and Texas Tierra del Sol is a recognized leader in developing farmworker housing—so much so that it and another NeighborWorks network member, Community Resources and Housing Development Corp. in Colorado have been selected as the only providers of USDA Rural Development technical assistance to other nonprofits seeking to tap into this kind of funding.