It’s impossible to think about the AT&T Byron Nelson without also celebrating Momentous Institute; a nonprofit, school-like-no-other, operated by the Salesmanship Club of Dallas. This amazing organization builds and repairs social emotional health through education, therapeutic services, research and training.  It’s the sole beneficiary of the Nelson, one of the most financially successful events on the PGA TOUR. And, it’s an organization that’s ripe with real-life success stories—kids who learned the mindfulness and gained the confidence they needed to realize their full potential.

One of those Momentous alumni is Luis Cardozo. This 23-year-old graduated from the University of North Texas with a BBA in Finance, passed his Series 7 exam this past Friday, and has already landed his dream job with TD Ameritrade.  Right now, the sky’s the limit.

“I want to help hardworking people with their investments so they can take care of themselves and their families,” Cardozo said. “I have my degree and a job where I can make a difference. I don’t think any of this would have happened without my parents and Momentous Institute.”

Cardozo and Salesmanship Club member, Jim Littlejohn. Photo courtesy of Momentous Institute

The Momentous Connection   

Cardozo is now one of 17 family members who has attended Momentous Institute, starting with an older cousin.

“I come from a very close family. Although my father had an elementary school education and my mother didn’t graduate high school, they always emphasized education. They wanted my sister, brother and me to get a good education because they knew that education equaled opportunity,” Cardozo said. “We all started at Momentous about the same time, at different grade levels. I was in the second grade then.”

The biggest thing Cardozo remembers from that first year was how much the teachers and staff at Momentous cared.

“I started Momentous Institute knowing very little English, as my parents spoke Spanish at home,” Cardozo said. “My actual name is Luis Alberto Cardozo. My father’s first name is Alberto. But, that first day, when the teacher asked me what name I go by, I thought she was asking my father’s name, so I said ‘Alberto.’ I think everyone called me Alberto the first few months or more I was there.”

Cardozo worked hard to learn, but needed a little extra help.

“I had a teacher—my favorite teacher, Ms. Chase—who took the time to work with me on my English, one-on-one after class,” he said. “She was so patient and kind, and seemed to care so much. I will never forget what she did for me, on her own. When people care so much, you start to believe in yourself.”

What Cardozo learned at Momentous Institute transcended traditional education.

“They made me feel like I could achieve anything if I worked hard enough, something my family kept telling me, too. I didn’t think about barriers. I thought if I studied, worked hard and never gave up, I could do anything I wanted,” Cardozo said. “It felt so easy.”

A Little Help When the Going Got Rough

Of course, life isn’t always easy, particularly if you’re chasing a dream.

“I started off at community college, got my associates degree and did fine. But, I had a real struggle when I transferred to a university,” Cardozo said. “The difference between the two was significant, in terms of both cost and expectations.”

Momentous Institute was there with resources to help with both.

“University is so much more expensive than community college. I applied for the Momentous Institute scholarship program and got the help I needed. I paid part and they covered what I couldn’t afford,” Cardozo said.

Perhaps an even bigger issue was figuring out how to deal with the new challenges of a university environment.

Cardozo and Littlejohn have become fast friends, too. Photo courtesy of Momentous Institute

“My parents didn’t have the life experience to help me make the transition from community college to university. They were there to support, but because they hadn’t been to college, they couldn’t understand what I was going through,” Cardozo said. “So, through Momentous Institute’s mentorship program, I got connected with (longtime Salesmanship Club member) Jim Littlejohn.”

There was nothing similar in Cardozo’s and Littlejohn’s backgrounds. But, they connected on a very real level.

“He went to college, so he understood what I was going through. He gave me great advice, like moving closer to the university, so I could spend more time at the library and get more engaged with the other students,” Cardozo said. “He talked to me about study habits, managing time. His understanding and support meant everything. He also believed that I could do it—that I could earn my degree. Having someone who wasn’t family believe in me when I was starting to doubt myself meant everything. He helped me so much.“

Today, Luis Cardozo is on a career fast track, with the confidence, skills and intelligence to live the life of his dreams. Yet, he’s a humble guy, who knows that no one can achieve great things all alone. He’s not only thankful, but also proud of the help he’s had along the way—from his family, his teachers, his mentor and all the staff at Momentous Institute.

“The people at the Momentous Institute and the Salesmanship Club have shaped me into the man I am today. They helped me accomplish what I couldn’t have accomplished on my own,” Cardozo said. “They are part of my family; part of my life. I’m so grateful for it all.”