A Gardener Who's Making Dreams Grow

hartman gardner
A mansion may symbolize the American dream. But the fact is, for most immigrants, the closest they ever get to one is the adjoining shrubbery.

Such is the case with 63-year-old Catalino Tabia of Redwood City, Calif. He's a gardener with a 6th grade education. He came to America to make his dreams come true - but ended up fulfilling everyone else's.

"I always wanted to be somebody," Tabia said. "But now I just want the opportunity to help others."

Which is why, not long ago, Tabia started the Bay Area Gardeners Foundation. It's a charity aimed at helping smart kids like Noel Chavez - second-youngest of a dozen children - his dream was to become the first in his family to graduate from college.

Unfortunately, since Noel is still waiting for his citizenship, he's ineligible for financial aid - and after just a few months of going to school full-time and working full time, he was ready to surrender.

"I'm working too much, I'm not going to do it, it's impossible. But then you get some help, and you're like whoa, that's my break, I can do it."

The break was a $1,500 scholarship from the Gardener's foundation. In the last two years, the foundation has awarded 13 such prizes to low-income kids - regardless of citizenship. And Tabia plans to give out hundreds more - which begs the question: How does a gardener come up with that kind of cash?

"I was thinking and thinking and thinking and all of a sudden, boom! The clients!" he said. That's where the money is coming from. "We ... work for clients with a lot of money."

Tabia and his gardener friends just started knocking on those mansion doors - and the checks have been rolling in ever since.

"There might be some gardeners at your graduation," Hartman said to Noel.

"I'm sure there will and I'm going to invite them," he replied.

Tabia is now hoping this idea catches on with the gardeners around the country.

And whether that happens or not, whether he realizes it or not, Tapia has already accomplished what he came to America to do - become somebody.

  • Steve Hartman

    Steve Hartman has been a CBS News correspondent since 1998, having served as a part-time correspondent for the previous two years.