Joseph Ruiz’s journey through life is a testament to perseverance and the power of education. Raised in Aguascalientes, Mexico, Joseph’s early life was showered with challenges. His father was incarcerated for much of his youth, leaving his mother to raise him and his three siblings alone. As the second oldest of four children, Joseph experienced a chaotic and demanding childhood.

The family’s financial struggles meant that his mother had to rent out the extra rooms in their apartment, forcing Joseph and his siblings to sleep wherever they could find space — on the couch, the floor, or even in the kitchen. The family’s hardships were compounded when Joseph’s older brother suffered a life-altering accident, losing his arm after being electrocuted while playing on their apartment roof. Additionally, his younger sister was born with birth defects that required extensive medical attention. Joseph found solace and a sense of purpose in his education as his mother dedicated most of her time to caring for his siblings.

Despite the adversity, Joseph excelled in school. His academic success became a beacon of hope and a means to channel his energy amidst the trauma surrounding him. At 17, his life took another turn when his mother married an American man, and the family moved to Chicago. Unfortunately, the promise of a better life quickly dissolved as his stepfather became abusive and failed to enroll Joseph in school, leaving him to fend for himself with only a 10th-grade education and no knowledge of English.

Joseph worked long days, juggling multiple jobs and taking English lessons at Truman College. At 19, he earned his GED in 1989, paving a path for his next chapter. When he discovered that his estranged father was living in Houston, Joseph moved to join him, working together in a manufacturing factory. The two often traveled to Georgia for work, and Joseph’s father decided it would be more efficient to rent an apartment in Gwinnett County where they would stay for work trips. Joseph eventually settled in Gwinnett County full-time in 1989 and worked as a server at a Mexican restaurant.

Joseph’s desire to further his education never wavered. While out in Atlanta, he met his future wife, Judy. At the time, Judy was a Georgia State University student, and she guided him through the admissions process, where he enrolled in an ESL program at GSU.  Balancing work and studies, Joseph graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business administration. Taking a business job just out of graduation, Joseph realized the business world was not for him and his passion for education led him back to school, where he earned a second bachelor’s degree in education.

Joseph’s career as an educator began in Dekalb County as a Spanish teacher, followed by positions in Atlanta Public Schools and eventually in Gwinnett County Public Schools (GCPS). His “dream job” materialized when he became involved in adolescent outreach for GCPS, working closely with high school students, primarily immigrants. Joseph’s personal story resonated deeply with these students, and he used it to emphasize the importance of education and staying motivated. Joseph currently serves as an international student advisor for GCPS, where he continues to guide and inspire the young minds of Georgia.

“So many kids relate to me and my story, and I am so proud to be a role model in their life. I have two bachelor’s degrees, a master’s degree, and a specialist’s degree; I always emphasize that education is the key that opens so many doors.” Explains Joseph.

His journey of healing and self-discovery through therapy led him to embrace journaling and writing. This therapeutic process culminated in his first book, “Power to Break the Chains,” a memoir highlighting the transformative power of education and resilience. The book will be on the shelves in the next few weeks, and Joseph is thrilled to share his story with the world.

Reflecting on his childhood, Joseph recalls a particularly difficult period when he lived in an orphanage for several months while his mother focused on his siblings’ medical needs. Despite the hardships, Joseph maintained a positive outlook, with only the clothes on his back and a soccer ball. In 2020, he revisited the orphanage and donated a car full of food.

This experience solidified his inspiration to fulfill the life-long dream of opening a children’s home in his hometown of Aguascalientes. This new project, dedicated to saving lives and serving others, will be the subject of his second book.

“If I had to relive my life, I wouldn’t change a thing. I appreciate every little thing now, every moment, every day. My heart is with helping kids.” Says Joseph Ruiz.

Joseph Ruiz’s story is a profound example of the American Dream. His journey from a challenging childhood in Mexico to becoming a beacon of hope and success in Gwinnett County embodies the spirit of resilience and the transformative power of education. Through his work and writings, Joseph continues to inspire countless individuals, proving that perseverance and dedication can lead to extraordinary achievements no matter where you start.