CLINTON — Juan Vasquez has been turning a lot of heads at the campus of Sampson Community College. It’s hard not to when you pull up in a Lamborghini in a small town like Clinton.
“I get a lot of puzzled looks. They see the car and don’t understand my purpose at the college,” Vasquez said. “I mainly get asked why I am here or what I do at SCC. It’s hard for others to believe it when they hear my answer.”
The vehicle, a bright yellow 2008 Lamborghini Gallardo twin-turbo, which is named for a fighting bull and capable of going 200-plus mph, turns heads and has been the subject of many conversations at the college.
The supercar has a sticker price of $181,900. A 2008 model like Vasquez’s is listed at $145,000 on the duPont Registry, a listing service for exotic cars.
Students and staff members frequently approach Vasquez and ask to take photos of and with the vehicle. But why Vasquez is on campus generates even more curiosity than his method of transportation.
Vasquez owns Vasquez Citrus & Hauling, Inc., a Florida-based company that provides foreign labor for growers in Michigan, North Carolina and Florida. The high-demand business employs more than 400 workers who help cultivate and harvest growers’ crops as many U.S. farmers struggle to find workers.
Seemingly, Vasquez has it all — a successful business, a great personality, nice cars, a bright future. But there is one thing he doesn’t have that he wants more above all else — his education.
In 1999, after having failed the ninth grade once and on his way to failing for a second time, Vasquez became discouraged and decided he would quit school, a decision he regrets to this day.
Even the license plate on one of Vasquez’s vehicles reads DROPOUT.
Vasquez made the decision to drop out of school against his father’s wishes and managed to be successful and accomplish many things in his career — and he doesn’t want his education to be the exception.
“It has always been in the back of my mind to go back to school and get my GED because I know how important education is,” he said. ”I knew it would be a challenge like many obstacles I have faced throughout my life, but I knew that it was also something I could achieve if I put my mind to it. I am up for the challenge.”
Coming from humble beginnings, Vasquez has since learned the value of education and why his father wanted him to finish high school early on.
Vasquez’s father arrived to the United States from Mexico in the early ’70s with two shirts, one pair of pants and a pair of strapped sandals. He came looking for the American dream.
His father and mother began working in the groves harvesting citrus in Florida. As a hard worker, his father made it his goal to save money to try and better himself and his family.
By 1983, his father’s hard work started to pay off and he had saved enough money to purchase his own harvesting equipment and became an entrepreneur starting his own harvesting business. He then had enough to purchase his first citrus grove in the 1990s.
Over the next several years, he was able to grow his company and accomplish many things. Vasquez says his dad taught him everything he knows.
“I was very observant and watched what he did, why he did things, and learned how quickly he solved any problem that came his way,” he recalled. “I quickly learned that his level of working hard was not that of the average person.”
At the age of 16, Vasquez became involved in the daily operations of his dad’s business helping him supervise and oversee the crews. They worked from dawn to dusk. In 2001, his father retired and Vasquez took over the family business.
But that car — the Lamborghini — that’s what everyone on campus knows Vasquez for….and though he doesn’t mind the attention, he doesn’t want to be defined by it or come across as someone who doesn’t appreciate what he has.
“Often we highlight students who may not have the resources or funds to come to college, yet they come in, ask for help, work hard and finally accomplish their goals” said Sampson Community College spokesman Dan Grubb. “Juan’s story is different in that Juan could retire if he wanted to, never work again and has everything, including the car, that he could ever want or need. But even with this, he is still very aware of the value of education.”
As hungry as Vasquez is to earn his GED, it should be noted that his goal isn’t complete when he earns that diploma.
“I am definitely considering a degree in business and agriculture,” he said. “I am a businessman and agriculture is what I grew up in and anything that can help me improve myself and the way I run my business is a plus. I never go down without a fight. Everything I have has come out of hard work, dedication and sleepless nights. Nothing comes easy, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t within your reach. If I put my mind to it, I can do anything.”