Hard Work and Dedication: The Spirit of Hispanic Culture.
Two Central States Division Support Employee-Owners Tell Their Story and Their Why.
Success Came from My Parents’ Strength.
The road for an immigrant from Mexico, Central and South America, and the Caribbean to the United States is as unique as the families and people who decide to make the trek. For Veronica Salas and Miguel Soriano, their paths through life as Hispanic–Americans started differently but have arrived at the same location. Their brave parents were willing to risk everything to set them both up for a quality of life, opportunity, and success that their parents did not know.
“I feel like my story is a little different because I was born here in the United States,” Veronica said. “My parents are from Zacatecas, Mexico, where they lived right down the street from each other. They met each other and moved to California. They moved around a lot throughout Los Angeles and the surrounding areas, but they were struggling so they decided to go back to Mexico. After a few years passed, they decided to try it again and moved this time to Arkansas and have lived here for over 30-years now.”
While in the United States, Veronica’s parents, Veronico and Maria Salas, started their family. Veronica and her brothers and sisters all started their journeys as first-generation Americans. The family has learned a lot from their immigrant parents, and from their strength, dreams and desires. They learned from their struggles. They learned to be thankful.
Veronica continued proudly, “The biggest thing is that I know the struggles they went through which makes me really grateful. I see it. I appreciate it. I appreciate a lot of things now because I saw them trying to work through things. Trying to make it without speaking the English language. I’ve learned to be very grateful of what I have and how hard you have to work.”
Making the Right Moves.
For Miguel, his story is a bit different. Born in Durango, Mexico, his father applied for his residency papers to come to the United States. Soon after, Miguel, his mother Irma and his two sisters reunited with Miguel Sr. in California to begin their new life. After moving around California looking for the right fit, the prospect of something better came along over 1,000 miles away in Arkansas.
“It was quite a bit of a culture change,” Miguel says of the move. “California is a little bit different than Arkansas, based on the school systems and other things because there are so many immigrants that come to California. The ESL (English as a Second Language) classes where they slowly but surely bring you up to speed on language were so important to getting us caught up. We also bounced around to a few cities around the southern California area. Inglewood, CA (where we landed at the beginning), then to Crenshaw, CA, then almost all the way down to Compton, CA before we moved to Arkansas. My Dad had family here in Arkansas already and my aunt that lived in Arkansas threw a little bug in my dad’s ear to make the move. We moved here right after the Rodney King riots in LA between 1994-95. If we hadn’t moved here, I’m not sure how my life would have turned out.”
Striving to Succeed: Thanks to the Central States Culture.
Both Veronica and Miguel worked various jobs before landing at Central States. Veronica started working as an administrative assistant in Training at Central States right after graduating from high school. With a desire to grow in her career and feeling the pressure for higher education requirements – she returned to school. This time to get an associate degree.
“Central States has the program where they pay a certain part of your tuition ($5,250.00 for full-time employee-owners) so I decided to do a two-year program and got a degree in business administration / management. As soon as I graduated an opportunity came up to become a Logistics Supervisor for Lowell. I had all the qualifications now, so I went for it, and I got it!”
Since then, Veronica has worked with many of the locations on the Central States map including Jasper, AL, Scottsville, KY and was part of opening the new plant and offices in Graniteville, SC in 2021.
Miguel didn’t go to college after graduating from Bentonville high school either.
“I graduated high school in 1996. Bentonville was different then. There were like three Hispanics in the school. Much different than now. The environment was so much different than where I came from in California – cleaner, no gangs. I felt a lot more comfortable dedicating myself to actually studying instead of worrying about how I was going to get home or if I was going to get home. Those were real fears when we were in LA.”
Miguel is now going back to school to move forward personally and professionally. A change in his life that has become more and more important.
“At least in my background from my family, my mom, dad, uncles on both sides of the family – education was not a high priority. Now that I have kids, I’m all for supporting better education and if there is something my kids want to pursue then there is 100-percent support there.” Miguel, who is a huge fan of the Los Angeles Dodgers, started a family after high school graduation and worked at several places in Northwest Arkansas before accepting an opportunity at Central States in 2018 to fill a bilingual supervisor’s position. After spending two-years learning the business on the production floor, a dispatcher position for Hartford, SD opened and that’s the role Miguel has now held for the last two and a half years.
Breaking Barriers for Other Employee-Owners.
Being bilingual has been a valuable asset for both Veronica and Miguel. Their ability to communicate in two languages offers a level of comfort to fellow employee-owners that makes the day-to-day job, relationships and problem solving much easier.
“It has its advantages because people in all positions within the company will open up to you a little bit more because they are comfortable,” both said in agreement. “You have empathy for their background because you also came from scratch. Being bilingual is helpful from technology related inquires to employee benefits enrollment questions. Where some people would just be checking stuff off just because, we now can step in and explain to them in Spanish what they were paying for and help them understand what was and wasn’t needed or what might be better for them and their family. So many have benefitted from our skill and communication. It really helps when people can just open up a little bit more and feel more comfortable. And they share things with you that they won’t share with someone else.”
Veronica and Miguel now sit across from each other, working, laughing and with the occasional stress ball flying back and forth. They both agree that the best part of working at Central States are the people along with the ESOP program, allowing for employee-owners to have financial freedom.
“Everybody says the same thing – ESOP. It’s going to set me up for retirement,” Veronica said laughing. “Everybody makes a big joke about you’re going retire when you’re 40 and you know that that’d be a great goal to complete. I mean, most people are closer to 65 -70 when they retire, but that’d be awesome. I like the people a lot. I’ve always felt super comfortable with everybody. Just around the whole company. Everybody is nice, you know? Everyone is respectful. They just want to welcome you into the company. We just love it here.”
Miguel chimed in, “Like Veronica said, it’s the people. I mean, it’s a challenge every day. You’re not doing the same thing over and over. Every day you tackle different things that keeps you at the edge of your seat and with a great team around you. I’m here for the long run. I don’t really like jumping around from job to job. It’s all about being around good people that’s what I like most about working at Central States… and the ESOP!”
There are stories like Veronica and Miguel’s from our sites in Claysburg, PA. to Seguin, TX. to Hartford, SD. As we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, the unique opportunity to be able to give back to family and move the entire family forward is a situation that many, no matter what road they took to get here – are thankful for today.
To learn more about become an employee-owner like Miguel and Veronica, please check out our careers page or contact us today.