Venezuela high school students at Euless Trinity
Limin Chang gets a smile on his face when asked about his homeland of Venezuela. He enthusiastically says, “It’s the best country in the world.”
Without even pausing for a breath, he rushes into the next statement, explaining why.
“It has everything. It has snow, beautiful ridges, beautiful people,” pausing, then saying with a grin, “Beautiful girls.”
Then, the junior at Euless Trinity High School gets serious. He remembers that among everything his native country has is unrest and turmoil, citizens struggling sometimes to find enough to eat or even shelter.
And he remembers why he and his fellow Venezuelans on the Trojans tennis team are here. The three of them came with their families to America to seek a better life.
Limin, whose nickname is Lee, has been in America a year and two months. Senior Andres Soto has been here a year and eight months, and junior Daniela Urbina came to the United States just four months ago.
None could speak English when they arrived, though Lee and Andres speak it pretty well now. Daniela still struggles some, but she is able to communicate, though she sometimes gets help from Trinity assistant tennis coach Miguel Roye.
“When coach (Chris) Yenne tries to coach me it’s in English,” she said through a laugh. “It helps to have coach Roye.”
Yenne, the head coach, responded in joking fashion, “I’m trying to learn her looks. What do they mean? We exchange a lot of signals, but it works.”
Roye is an American citizen, having come to the U.S. when he was an eighth-grader in 2003. Though the Venezuelan government, then under the rule of Hugo Chavez, had not yet reached the decline of today under Nicolas Maduro, Roye said it was on its way, so he understands what his young proteges are escaping.
“I came here in the same situation as them. I couldn’t speak any English,” Roye said. “I moved here from Caracas. It’s the most dangerous city in the world. The boys and the girl aren’t from the city, so they didn’t face that danger, but it’s still good for them to get out.”
Inflation is expected to reach one million percent in Venezuela this year, according to reports. That, coupled with rising violence, has made many citizens seek a life elsewhere.
“I remembered seeing one of my friends holding a door shut, and you could see a gun coming through the opening,” Roye said. “And it’s getting harder to get away. The lucky ones are those who have had their visas for years, which I’m sure is the case with their (the players) families.”
Roye and his brother came to visit their father, who had moved to the U.S. five years earlier. They never returned, and he went on to graduate from Richland High School. Staying permanently is the same goal Lee, Andres and Daniela said they have.
“My mother worked in the public schools and the director said she had to vote for him. She had no freedom to vote for whoever she wanted. She didn’t feel free, and she wanted to come to a place where she could be free, where we could all be free,” Andres said.
“People go to jail without doing anything wrong,” Daniela said.
Ironically, Lee and Andres were friends back in Venezuela, as were their families. In fact, Lee’s older brother Liu lived with Andres and his family for a while before the rest of Lee’s family escaped. Now, he and Andres live three minutes apart.
It was only a coincidence that Daniela, who lived five hours from them back in Venezuela, ended up with them on the same tennis team at Trinity.
Or was it? Roye said Trinity’s reputation of open arms toward diversity is well-known.
“Put yourself in a room where nobody is the same, and you have to communicate. You have to figure out how to work with each other, and ultimately to love each other. Trinity has figured that out,” Yenne said.
“Coach Yenne said we need to create a tunnel to Venezuela, all these tennis players are so good,” Roye said.
In fact, Lee is the No. 2 player on the boys team. He and Andres are the No. 2 boys doubles team.
All three are hoping to play in college, and each has plans start a career in the U.S. after college.
Lee wants to either be a coach or go into finance. Andres wants to be a petroleum engineer like his aunt. Daniela wants to follow in her father’s footsteps and become an architect.
And each wants to find a way to help family members they still have back in Venezuela. Roye feels the same, though he did bring his mother over recently and hopes to garner her citizenship.
Their families send what they can back home, some clothes, a little money. There are times they’d like to go back, but they say they simply cannot.
Andres said his grandmother died a couple months ago. His face became somber and he fought back a tear as he explained that he was unable to be there for the funeral.
“My grandmother is the one who talked my mother into coming here with us,” he said (his dad had already made his way over). “I miss her.”
Lee adds, “I’d like to go back and see the beautiful places again, but I don’t have that choice.”
Likewise, Roye said he no longer returns to Venezuela, though his love for it will never cease.
“I can’t go back. There’s nothing there,” he said. “I will never forget my homeland, and neither will these kids, but the time has come to look forward, and they have a lot to look forward to because they are capable of doing great things.”