Facebook memories can provide wonderful surprises some days. It’s a wonderful way for me to check in and see how far things have come, and in some cases, it’s a new discovery. Like this past Monday…I quickly looked through Facebook memories when I saw a photo I took 7 years ago (2013). I was tagged in it by my friend and community activist, Helen Rivas. The photo was of a gentleman by the name of Abe Francisco who had been the victim of a home invasion and was severely injured. Helen tagged me in her post because I had taken the photo at a Celebration of the Immigrant Community rally in July 2010 in Linn Park and she was sharing Abe’s story of resilience.
And then, as I looked closer at this photo, I realized I knew the other young man in the photo…it was Abe’s brother Frank! Frank Francisco had been a Fiesta Scholarship recipient in 2008 when he was attending University of Alabama at Birmingham and studying optometry. I remember him to well because he had the best smile and was always so humble. In the photo, Frank is holding a small American flag and looking at his brother Abe, who is holding a sign that said, “I was a stranger and you welcomed me.”
This photo just made me smile. I especially remembered Frank from a 2008 scholarship reception we had at the Birmingham Public Library with Storyteller Antonio Sacre. It was such a wonderful event and I got to introduce him to those gathered, give him a little hug and then he went on to speak about the scholarship and what it meant to receive it. Frank is the youngest of five children of Indigenous Mayan Guatemalan immigrants who moved to Albertville, Alabama in 1994. He speaks both Spanish and Qanjobal and he volunteered at HICA – the Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama – an organization that I have been involved with since 2001. Everyone at the reception loved talking to him.
The following year, Fiesta made posters of all the recipients to display at the festival. We also got quotes from each of the scholarship recipients and Frank’s quote was “My dream of becoming a Doctor of Optometry has been made possible by the financial support of the Fiesta Scholarship.” The Fiesta board loved being able to show the faces of the Hispanic students receiving scholarship awards and sharing their stories. I mean, this is why we have Fiesta…so we can award scholarships to deserving Hispanic students!
In January 2019, I was at Albertville High School to photograph a show choir competition. My daughter is the show choir director for Boaz middle school and high school and her students were performing that particular weekend. As we walked to the classroom where the kids had changed into their costumes, we passed photographs all along the hallway. The photos were honorees of Albertville High School’s Hall of Fame featuring graduates from the school who had gone on to wonderful achievements. I was surprised to recognize several people and then I spotted Frank. I had no idea he was a graduate of Albertville High School! I had only known that he attended UAB in Birmingham. It was also exciting to see what he had accomplished since his 2008 Fiesta scholarship award. I excitedly showed my daughter and some of her students Frank’s photo and when I went to my next Fiesta board meeting, I couldn’t wait to tell everyone!
Now, back to that photo that my friend Helen posted seven years ago… I clicked on to Abe’s Facebook page on Monday and scrolled a bit. That’s when I saw the video of his brother Frank’s induction into the Albertville High School Hall of Fame. I watched the video and listened to his story up to 2018. He graduated in 2014 and in addition to his work, he mentors other Hispanic students to help them reach their scholastic goals. I heard that and said to myself…” of course he does!” Then I saw it…the photo that I took in 2013 as part of the slide show about Frank’s life and achievements. It literally stopped me in my tracks. It’s amazing how far a single photo can take you with its story, isn’t it?
NOTE: November is National Scholarship Month, established in 1998 by Scholarship America. It was created to build awareness of scholarships. This month, Fiesta, Alabama’s largest Hispanic cultural festival awarded $10,000 in scholarships to eight Hispanic students in Alabama.