Courage takes many forms. For Bruno Soares, courage is a young man who chooses to leave behind family in Brazil and familiarity to pursue a dream of becoming a lawyer and advocating in a country where he doesn’t even speak the language. These massive obstacles were overcome one by one with the help of many teachers, supporters and friends who could see this courage align with his drive to practice law in a democratic country that believes in the power of citizens to affect positive change.
Bruno immigrated to the United States from Brazil in 2007 to get away from violence. Most of his childhood friends either became drug addicts, were in jail, or even dead. “As kids, we had no concept of what we wanted for our future. All we wanted was to play soccer barefoot on the hot road using rocks to mark as our goals,” he said.
He came to the U.S. for a better life and to pursue his dream. His mother, who remained in Brazil, encouraged her son’s dreams. To Bruno, his mother exemplifies strength. “I admire my mother because of all of the difficulties she has overcome. She is warm, kind and helpful to all.”
Bruno’s father originally came to the U.S. to become a truck driver, but the language barrier made it impossible to pass the required test. The language barrier also challenged Bruno. He started high school at Nashua High School-North but dropped out for a year. His drive to learn brought him back and he worked with school staff to craft a plan to overcome this barrier, finish high school and develop a financial aid strategy to afford college.
In June 2009 – just before graduating from high school – his plan began to take shape. Bruno attended the “Get on the Bus” event at Nashua Community College (NCC) and soon realized that college was within reach. He looked at several other colleges, but NCC offered him the best chance to overcome his still significant language barriers.
At the end of his time in high school and into the following summer, life was still very challenging. He was unable to find work in restaurants, was evicted and sleeping in his car. That summer, he still managed to take an English as a Second Language (ESL) course at the University of New Hampshire and his English and writing began to progress.
At the same time, Bruno started attending a local church and met a fellow churchgoer who owned a restaurant and offered him a job. This enabled him to save enough money for an apartment before starting at NCC.
His three-year journey at NCC required mastering the English language first and then pursuing an Associate of Science in Paralegal Studies. It took a little longer, but Bruno made the most out of the experience.
At NCC, Bruno won the admiration of staff, students and faculty with his determined spirit, positive attitude and inclination to help others. As a student, he completed over 158 hours of community service at local organizations, including St. Joseph’s Hospital and the Nashua Soup Kitchen. Chris Hussey, a fellow student at the time, said, “Bruno is one of the most selfless people I have ever met. We are the same age, but I consider him a role model because of his ambition in and out of the classroom.”
NCC gave him the resources that he needed, and the college felt like a second home. Since he didn’t have a car at this time, he would often take busses to get to school at 7:30 am and stay until 10 pm. He built strong relationships with the faculty and staff. He specifically credited Professor Elizabeth Berry for her tutoring help and Shirley Silva-Paige, service-learning coordinator, as “she is always there to help me with anything I need.”
Bruno also became very involved in school activities. These included becoming a vice president in the Student Senate, president of the world language club, member of the paralegal club, member of the peace and social justice club, and member of the student rotary club.
In his final year, his course work focused on paralegal studies. “I always liked social justice and when I came to the U.S., I had a lot of friends who were immigrants and some who were being deported. I saw the fear that this community had, and I wanted to do something about it,” he said.
Bruno seamlessly continued his education through a transfer agreement between NCC and Granite State College, where he received a presidential scholarship that covered the cost of his education. He graduated just a year later with a bachelor’s in pre-law and a minor in business management. After working for a year, he achieved another dream – pursuing a law degree. He was accepted at the Massachusetts School of Law and earned his degree in 2018.
He realized his vision of being a legal advocate for immigrants when he was hired as an immigration advocate in New Hampshire, which he continues to do today. Bruno also became active in his adopted home city of Nashua, which has a growing Brazilian population. With a group of Brazilians in Nashua, Bruno helped to create a semi nonprofit agency called NH Brazilian Council.
He’s also taking on broader advocacy work. “A group of us are working to pass legislation in NH that would enable undocumented immigrants to possess a driver’s license. Many factors play into this, so immigrants don’t have to fear that they have to be deported just by going to church or the market. Every time they turn their ignition on, there is a risk of them getting deported,” he said.
After a long road that took much courage and perseverance, he had this advice for those thinking about pursuing a degree but unsure where to start: “Pursue your dream. What might seem impossible will become possible one day if you fight for it.”