Ride through Life with the Window Wide Open
Leadership Lessons through Life Experiences by Carmen Nazario
Carmen Nazario, President and CEO of Elyon International, Inc. opens up about her background and the life experiences that helped shape and mold her leadership skills. Carmen believes we are a product of our environment and life experiences — everything, from our early life has an impact on how we respond to what comes along the way.
I was born in Puerto Rico, USA; a small island straddling the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. Puerto Rico is some 100 miles long by 35 miles wide (3,578 square miles, roughly nine times smaller than Cuba). When I was five years old, we moved from Costa Rica, where we had been living, to New Jersey.
I didn’t know a word of English, and the first words I ever spoke were in my kindergarten class. I remember being applauded by my classmates after I had spoken my first sentence in English. It motivated and informed me in a way that later helped provide the courage to face new challenges.
Everyone spoke Spanish on the island, but being that Puerto Rico was and continues to be an American Commonwealth, English was a mandatory subject in schools. Puerto Ricans have been American citizens since 1917.
I also would not have experienced my grandparents’ little farm. They had mango, lemon, guava and avocado trees, lots of banana trees, sugar cane, breadfruit and other fruit trees. There were chickens running around, and the occasional pig. Every now and then one of the chickens would find its way into the pot for Sunday dinner. My grandmother would grab them by the neck and spin them around in the air to dispatch them into the next life.
There was a sugar cane plantation across the road, and not far away, the monstrous facility where the canes were converted to crystalline granules. It was a wonderful life at my grandparents … they were not rich but had enriched lives.
Growing up in two cultures prepared us for the world around us, one that was constantly changing—though we did not realize it at the time. My siblings and I shared big dreams. I remember my brother telling me that once he was finished with high school, he was coming back to the US to study. And he did. He was the first to leave, followed by my sister and I.
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