Agnes Priscaro Apartments
My name is Gustavo Vera and moving into what was then known as Westbrook, a Housing Authority of the City of Erie (HACE) neighborhood now known as the Agnes R. Priscaro Apartments, was probably the best thing that could have ever happened to me, really.
My family migrated from Puerto Rico to Erie, PA when I was 8 years old. I remember feeling excited since I was too young to really grasp the immense change I was about to experience. But moving to and living in public housing immersed me into an array of cultures and ethnicities I had never known before. I found myself surrounded by other kids that were not only Hispanic, but also Ethiopian, Caucasian, African American, Middle Eastern, Sudanese, and more. The one thing that made us all the same was that we were just kids; in a time where there were no computers, no cellphones, no tablets, and where wanting to play video games was a far second to actually wanting to play outside until you were called in for dinner or until the street lights came on. Housing provided a neighborhood where close quarters allowed for close friendships that would last a lifetime.
Over the course of 10 years, housing opened many doors for me. I remember that housing would give us $100 savings bonds if we had perfect attendance during the school year. I had about seven or eight savings bonds. I cashed them in and used that money towards buying my first car. Housing also awarded me a college scholarship during my freshman year and prior to leaving for college, HACE provided me with my first college summer job working as a site supervisor for the YMCA Kids Club.
HACE opportunities helped shaped the man I am today. I live in Reno, Nevada, am a loving father to two amazing boys. I have a bachelor’s degree in Biology Pre-Medicine and a master’s degree in Clinical Research. I am currently working as a Clinical Research Site Manager. I work remotely and travel all around the world, on one of the largest clinical research trials for the United States government focused on the COVID-19 Vaccine. I recently enlisted in the Army National Guard and plan on continuing my education, working towards a doctorate’s degree. I have come a long way from living in public housing but no matter where I am or what I am doing, I will never forget where I came from and who helped me along the way. And for that, I have a lot of thanks to give to HACE.