The Mercado family settled in Salt Lake City, with the father leaving a promising job in L.A. as a manager for a junk yard company and entering business for himself in construction. The work was hard but the hours flexible — hours that he could now spend with his family, including daughter Ashley.
"I am very proud of her because she is always very active (in school)," Mercado said.
Ashley, 12, enjoys studying math and science and is proud to have a caring father.
"It is great because I feel like he really cares about me," she said. "They (her parents) will always be there for you, but I see other parents who don't care and then their kids are just doing bad stuff."
Mercado believes one of the responsibilities of parents is to motivate their kids so they can look for positive activities and leave the negative ones behind.
"Life is very difficult and we need to work hard," Mercado said. "Of course school is a principal piece that is going to give (my kids) a future that they deserve."
Mercado's family implemented those values at a young age. But because of financial struggles, they could not provide much more. He said his values center around working hard in school, at home and in church.
"These are basic fundamentals that were taught to me," he said. "I want to continue touching those good points and avoid the bad ones."
Isaac Alejandro Giron, 27, did not avoid those bad points early in his life.
Giron wants to be the positive father that he never had. Growing up in Los Angeles, he was consumed with life as part of the Central American gang the Mara Salvatrucha.
The Guatemalan-Salvadoran descendant moved to Salt Lake City with his family during his early teens and continued his negative path into gang life. He was arrested for assault, theft and criminal mischief and spent time in juvenile detention.
But that all changed once his wife-to-be came into the picture. He met Flor Olivo-Gironwhen they were both 23.
"I was blessed with the fact that my wife already had two kids," Giron said.
The couple later decided soon after to have a third baby. He changed his outlook in life and with that came a desire to make his newfound family proud.
"I promised her everything and I took that vow with them, too, my kids," he said. "It completely changed my idea of what it is to even be alive right now."
His motivation to be an ideal parent starts and ends with his wife and children.
"I want her to be proud of me, I want her to know that I am there. And I want her to be able to rely on me.
"She chose me to be a parent to her kids and that is a big deal," he said. "It is tough for a woman to decide I am going to bring this guy in, that I don't know anything about, and I am going to have him be a parent to my kids."
Giron at first did not want to have children because he thought that he could not handle the responsibility. "I figured if you are going to be a bad parent, you might as well not be a parent," he said.
However, that all changed and he said he now consciously thinks about parenting and his approach to raising his kids.
"You are being so nice, he punish(es) us so nice," 7-year-old Natalia quipped as she stood next to her dad.
The two will be attending the ball for their second time. Even though the daddy-daughter couple doesn't like to dance, that won't stop them from spending quality time together.
"It feels boring because they just dance. And you don't even know how to dance salsa," Natalia teased, turning to her father.
Giron is finishing his degree in economics at the University of Utah and plans to continue into graduate school. He thanks his family for the opportunity to continue to learn.
"They gave me the motivation to fulfill my dreams, so I can help them with theirs," he said.
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