Domingo Thrives Inside the Wire
Santa Monica College alum and U.S. Army veteran Domingo Tomas—now a senior at Loyola Marymount University (LMU)—was born in Los Angeles. His father moved the family back to his native Zaculeu, near the western Guatemala city of Huehuetenango, then returned to the U.S., leaving Domingo’s mother to fend for herself, her nine children, and later, seven grandchildren.
“Any good in me comes from my mother,” says Domingo. “If there was someone sick, she would take care of them. If someone carrying a lot of wood on their back was passing in the streets, she would give that person water and a little food.”
Yet the family’s poverty was extreme. “In a sociology class at SMC, I saw a picture of kids in Guatemala picking through trash in a massive garbage dump,” says Domingo. “I remember doing that.”
At 18, he returned to Los Angeles, determined to get educated and make a better life for himself and his mom, who stayed in Guatemala to raise the younger kids. At 21, he graduated from Belmont High School, and two weeks later, he joined the U.S. Army.
When his enlistment was up, Domingo enrolled at SMC, with plans to transfer to UCLA. But he was also in the Army Reserve, and was sent to Afghanistan. When he returned, he came back to SMC.
After a decade in the military, Domingo faced “a difficult transition.” His therapist at the Veterans Administration (VA) was a great help, and Domingo also found a safe haven at SMC’s Veterans Resource Center (VRC), a “one-stop shop” where students can find academic and career counseling, a computer lab, referrals to community resources, and more. Domingo says VRC faculty leader and counselor Linda Sinclair’s “motivation is taking care of veterans, and it shows. She understands exactly where we’re coming from. She’s there with us 100%.”
Last year, Domingo returned to Zaculeu to fulfill a dream of his: to buy school supplies for the children in his hometown.
“Many times, parents have to choose between food and school supplies,” says Domingo, who recalls seeing that ‘can’t afford it’ look in his mother’s eyes. “The whole purpose of this program I am calling ‘Korazόn Kakao’—‘Kakao’ because I want to grow it—is to ease their burden a little.” The first year, he gave 300 children school supplies, and this past winter, 350 children benefitted from Domingo’s heart and generosity.
After finishing at LMU, Domingo plans to go to law school and eventually hopes to do pro-bono work. He also wants to found a school in Zaculeu to provide a free education from pre-K to 6th grade.
“When you die, it’s not about what you can take with you, it’s about what you leave behind,” says Domingo. “My education will give me a foundation to help many people in Guatemala. I want that to be my legacy.”
“My education will give me a foundation to help many people in Guatemala. I want that to be my legacy.”
– SMC Alum and U.S. Army veteran Domingo Tomas