Andoni and his immediate family gather around the table to celebrate Geovanni’s (Andoni’s little brother) birthday. (Courtesy of Vera Family)

by Lauren Jones, staff writer

  • Andoni and his immediate family gather around the table to celebrate Geovanni’s (Andoni’s little brother) birthday. (Courtesy of Vera Family)
  • Elders in the Vera household have passed down the words: respect, courtesy, and loyalty through the generation as their words of wisdom. (Courtesy of Vera Family)

Usually when people say “it takes a village to raise a child” they don’t always mean it seriously. Andoni Vera is the exception.

Vera has a village living with him, eighteen other people in one house. This includes his parents, one younger sibling, six uncles, three aunts and six cousins.

In the Vera’s household “school is the top priority, it’s above anything else,” Vera said.

His family knows their kids can achieve a future far greater than they could have ever expected for themselves. Andoni’s dad didn’t have the best childhood and for his mom, back in Mexico it was hard to get a good job even with a degree. His family pushes him to do well in school to achieve the life they didn’t have for themselves.

“Get the skills to pay the bills” is something Andoni often hears from his mother Veronika Vera. Veronika is a strong advocate of getting a good education. Her rule is: as long as you get an education, you can stay at the house after 18.

For Andoni the morning routine for getting that good education is a struggle. Waking up early in the morning with 18 other people in the house isn’t the easiest thing to do but it has to be done because school is the most important aspect to their family.

Friday morning usually means kids sleep in a little later since it’s the last school day of the week- that’s not the case for Andoni. Friday is cleaning day for the adults, so instead of waking up to an alarm, Andoni often wakes to the sound of a vacuum cleaner.

In one room you can hear Hispanic music playing, in another you can hear people yelling over the sound of bacon sizzling on the stove. In the Vera household everybody has the mindset that waking up early means they beat everyone else to the shower, even if it means waking up at 5 a.m. There’s been times when someone in the family had to skip a morning shower in order to make it to school on time.

Most of Andoni’s family comes from other countries: Mexico, El Salvador and Brazil. They came to America to not only have better opportunities for themselves, but also for the future generations to come.

Jose Antonio Vera and Marlo Vera encouraged their nephew Andoni to join ROTC, stressing the opportunities and experiences it would bring him. At first Andoni thought the program would be pointless for him.

“My uncle contacted me with a student that is a family friend,” Andoni said. “He told me everything there is to know about NJROTC, and I was amazed.”

Andoni now embraces NJROTC and aspires to join the Marines after graduation.

Although living with 18 other people isn’t the easiest thing to do, Andoni has received valuable wisdom from each and everyone of his family members.

Andoni’s grandfather Ismael constantly reminds him of these three words: respect, courtesy, and loyalty. His grandfather tells the family to respect everybody and themselves, show courtesy to others because everything happens for a reason, and to always stay loyal. Andoni considers this his family’s motto as it has been passed down from generation to generation.