By Clyde Hughes | AC JosepH Media
VINELAND â€“ Cesar Morales has become a success in the technology field, but admits he has always felt a higher calling beyond his professional career as a native of Lima, Peru.
That “higher calling” has led him to become involved as a “Big” mentor in Big Brothers Big Sisters and plans to start an annual youth technology fair to inspire the next generation.
“I have always felt that I have a higher calling than just my professional career â€“ to leave an everlasting legacy for my family and inspire others to make a difference in their life’s journey,” said the director of applications at the AmeriHealth Caritas Family of Companies located in Philadelphia and a Vineland resident.
“Many have made enormous sacrifices for me throughout my life. I am simply looking to ‘pay it’ back to the community who embraced us when we first arrived. I have been volunteering as a mentor to Jose for the past three years and now as a board member in 2020.”
In 2019, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Cumberland and Salem Counties nominated Morales for Big Brother of the Year. He has mentored his “Little” Jose since 2016, despite his job in Pennsylvania. In February, he was named to the Big Brothers Big Sisters Board of Trustees.
Making a Difference
“Jose was originally referred to Big Brothers Big Sisters by the school counselor because he did not have a father figure in his life, he needed to improve his self-esteem and he was struggling with his grades,” the Big Brothers Big Sister nomination story said last year. “Since being matched with Cesar, Jose’s life began to improve almost at the onset. Jose’s mother states that, Jose or ‘JJ.’ as he is called by family and friends, has gained more confidence.
“Cesar has not only made a commitment to his Little Brother, but he has demonstrated his commitment to the agency’s mission and goals by always being a willing participant in agency activities and events. He is a multi-year donor and has been a speaker at our events,” Big Brothers Big Sisters said.
Morales, 53, said he able to relate to Jose and many immigrants, coming to the United States at the age of 10, trying to find a place to fit in and feel at home.
“Many [young immigrants] likely have faced the same challenges that I have faced when I first arrived to the United States — language barrier, making friends, peer pressure, etc.,” Morales told Front Runner New Jersey. “Many may be struggling in terms of deciding on a career choice. I have been in their shoes and I would like to demonstrate that if I can do it, they can do it, too.
The STEM Option
“One option I like to give them is to pursue a STEM career. Nowadays, you don’t need to live in a high tech city to work in the field of technology and there a few Latinos that are in the IT industry today. My expertise in technology along with my engagement with Big Brothers Sisters where many of the children on the waiting list are Latinos can help make a difference in my community,” he added.
Morales said his parents provided an endless stream of encouragement and were his constant support system. In Vineland, they worked along hours at a local factory, dividing up different shifts so at least one parent could be at home watching their children.
“Despite the language barrier, my mother spent countless of hours late at night helping us with our homework,” Morales said. “She often worked the graveyard shift with little sleep. As I grew up, I learned that pursuing the American dream was not all rainbows and white picket fences. She inspired me to excel and is a major force of who I am today. I often remind her that ‘I am who I am because of you mom.’
“With her constant support, I moved forward and started my career in technology at a young age. I was inspired when I took my first computer class at my local high school. Once I graduated, I worked at McDonalds for several years earning enough money to buy my first car while also attending community college,” he said.
Morales would later transfer to the University of Maryland to earn his bachelor’s degree in management information systems, calling it a “transformational moment” in is life.
“After years of acclimating to the American culture, I joined a Hispanic community group in college where it invigorated my desire to learn more about my heritage,” Morales said. “After 24 years, I returned to Peru in late 2001. It was an invigorating experience visiting long distant family, eating at the local food stands, and visiting my old stomping grounds (school, childhood home, etc.).Â Thereafter, I spent many years returning and travelling up and down Peru. I guess you could say â€“ ‘Me fui de mi Peru, pero Peru nunca se fue de mi.'”
Morales said he landed his first IT job in the mid-1990s as an entry level programmer. That has led to a 20-year career in the IT healthcare industry field, including his current position with AmeriHealth Caritas.
Today, Morales serves as a tech career advocate empowering youth with the knowledge to pursue a career in technology. He is the founder of “Launch Your Tech Career,” a social community site highlighting emerging technologies and IT career tips. He is also the founder of “Kids Tech Talk” podcast where children are inspired to be tech makers rather than just consumers.
He has served as an advisory member at Cumberland County Technical Education Center for the past three years, providing guidance and direction in field of technology. He is a frequent local radio/television guest speaker sharing his expertise on a wide variety of tech topics.
Thankful for Every Day
Morales speaks at local community events, local high schools and community colleges about all things tech.
“I am thankful every day for the opportunity this country has given me,” Morales said. “As a parent, citizen and community leader, I look for opportunities to make a difference in my community. As John F. Kennedy once said, ‘ask not what your country can do for you â€” ask what you can do for your country.’
“A call for its citizens to do what is right for the greater good. This has inspired me to ‘pay it’ back to the community who embraced us when we first arrived.
“TU FUTURO DEPENDE DE MUCHAS COSAS, PERO ESPECIALMENTE DE TI!”
Morales shared other stories about growing up in the United States with Front Runner New Jersey/La Prensa.
Moving to Cumberland County
Cesar Morales: In 1977, my family moved to a small town (Bridgeton) in South Jersey where very few Hispanics resided. The lack of bilingual teachers drove the school district to hire a tutor. We spent countless of hours my first year learning English at the school library. Learning a second language was a painful experience. The new language and cultural practices made it difficult to make new friends. And letâ€™s not forget the few scuffles that I go into with school bullies that often follow when you donâ€™t fit it. My mother reminds me of the tears that I came home with the first few days yearning to go back to Peru (although I personally donâ€™t recall).
Finding a home
Cesar Morales: I do recall the first day that we moved to Bridgeton. My father desperately drove around town all day looking for a rental home. I donâ€™t recall how we landed our first home that day but I do remember having dinner at the local park while waiting patiently for the landlord to give us the key. Although the house was not suitable for moving in, we proudly settled in for the night.
Cesar Morales: We stayed for a couple of months until the local Catholic Church helped us find a new home. On top, the congregation donated a table and a couch to get us started. We felt embraced and welcomed by our new community.
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