Edgar Palacios is quiet. He folds his hands conservatively in his lap, maintaining a collected demeanor even in the frenzy of the University of Nevada, Reno library. He didn’t imagine himself here — then again, he didn’t exactly imagine himself anywhere in particular.
“I remember going on a field trip — I was in, like, second … maybe third grade — and we went to the police station. You know, the one down by the river?” Edgar explains, and his instincts move his finger to point in that direction. “I remember thinking that I wanted to be a cop. That died out.”
And, according to Edgar, it faded into nothing. From then on, he never put much thought into what would come of his life once he was thrust into the “real world.” Being stuck in the here and now for a child is easy when you have both of your parents to do the worrying for you; however, that safety net doesn’t always remain the same.
“My father died of gastric cancer right before my senior year in high school,” Edgar says. “He also smoked, like, a pack a day,” he adds, “so I’m sure that didn’t help. He started getting really sick during football season. I remember leaving football practice and going straight to see him.”
Having a parent die during your childhood years bears repercussions that can’t be empathized. His family’s home in the back of Sun Valley, a northern pocket of the Reno area dominated by trailers and unmaintained ditches, displays a chronology of his family. Photos of he and his brother, Juan, playing football at Sparks High School; a family portrait taken before his younger sister was born and while his father was still alive; school portraits throughout the years, and many representations of crosses and other Catholic symbols, something Edgar said is very important to his mother.
Edgar’s family moved here in the mid-90s when he was just about three years old. Originally from Mexico, the only time he has ever returned was to bury his father there after his death. His memories are non-existent of the place before then, yet Edgar dreams about traveling one day after college.
“College was never approached to me in a really sincere way,” he says.
No one ever bothered to ask Edgar if he planned on going to college, and he came from a family where he saw his brother barely graduate high school. Sparks High School, their alma mater, has a 15.5 percent college readiness rate. With the odds against them, the two brothers are now students at the university, and will be the first generation of college graduates in their family.
“Because we’re first generations — our parents were educated in Mexico — we didn’t really know which direction to go,” says Edgar’s older brother, Juan, who will be obtaining his first bachelor’s degree in May 2014 at the age of 24.
This is not typical of his demographic, though. The area of Reno in which Edgar has always lived is something he describes as “bare.” Its grid-like streets are filled with trailers and dilapidated houses in the valley, far away from the Palacios’ house on the hill in a newer, more suburban housing development.
“You won’t find many kinds my age out there,” he says. “It’s mostly retired people.”
Edgar is right about one thing: not many people his age live in the area, with city data reporting about 300 people in the zip code inside the lower-20s age range. He’s also part of the small population of Hispanics living in the 70 percent Caucasian dominated neighborhood.
These brothers are a pair of extremes drawn together by one thing: their respect for their blood bond. Edgar spent high school studying in advanced placement and honors classes and playing football. Having lived in the same general area for his entire time in Reno, Edgar talks about hiking and spending time with his family during his free time — and when it comes to school, he’s modest, even nonchalant, about the subject.
“I’m a sophomore, so I still have two more years,” he says as he works on an article assignment for a class. “I don’t really know what will happen then. Trying to just focus on right now.”