By Carly Loy
Daniel Batista enjoys playing poker, listens to Nicki Minaj, and has met the Jonas Brothers. When asked what his specialty would be if he were in the talent show, he said that he would jump backstage and take over the show instead.
You may know Daniel by his popular nickname — “the guard at the gym”.
Daniel immigrated from the Dominican Republic in search of a better economic situation. In the DR, he worked as a television producer after earning the degree to do such work at a school in Moscow, Russia. He used the word ‘professional’ often when speaking of his career in his past life. He said that he met many famous people during that time, including the Jonas Brothers. He had the great pleasure of recording their concert and interviewing them, making the 13-year-old in me very envious. However, following a death in the family, his economic situation took a turn. His wife had already immigrated to the United States and his daughter was in the process of joining her so he decided to start anew in the United States as well, emphasizing that families must stick together.
They were drawn to New York City in 2010 because of its vast opportunities. He knew that he wanted to be in a city so why not be in the “capital of the world,” as he referred to it. He had no desire for suburbia, dubbing it farmland. He came to the city not knowing much English and not having a job. He left his career in television producing to make way for the younger crowd who understands the necessary new technological advances. He had his family though.
Six years later, he is now the nighttime security guard at the fitness center at Fordham University. This is a position he has held for four years, following prior employment as a delivery man for a bodega and a cafeteria worker at CUNY City College. Of the three jobs, he likes his current one because it boasts higher pay and gives him some responsibility. He also gets to interact with others on a regular basis, saying hello to everyone who enters the fitness center. Perhaps most importantly of all, this job grants him the flexibility to continue his education. Daniel is rarely at the gym without a textbook nearby. He is studying criminal justice at a local community college and planning on graduating with an Associate’s Degree this summer. The next step is to go to a four year college in hopes to reach his eventual goal of being a lawyer. However, he recognizes the difficulty in this. He still has to work to provide for his family. He is told to go to the writing center to help with his assignments because of his English, but he doesn’t have the time to do this. His daughter is in college as well and he puts her education in front of his own.
Daniel puts his heart into everything he does. From the way his face lights up when he talks about his family, you can believe he is a great father and husband. From the long list of Pandora stations he has on his personal account to play at work, you can tell that he cares about the students, even though only a handful probably know his name. From the way that he studies behind the desk as he works, you can sense that he is a motivated student. From the way that he took English classes when he first arrived here and how he writes down the English words he doesn’t know so he can look them up later, you can tell that he is really trying to make living in the United States work.
Meeting him makes me imagine how difficult it could be to move to a new country is, that it would be easy to let the obstacles get the best of you. In just six years of living somewhere new, Daniel knows the language well enough to have lengthy conversations in, as this interview was (although he was nervous about his English beforehand). He is in a job that he likes, working towards a career that he is excited about. He dreams of owning a house someday and renting out his apartment. He has not allowed immigration issues get him down.