In May 2014, I was awarded TheDream.US Scholarship – a national scholarship for Dreamers (undocumented students) who have the drive and passion for higher education but otherwise lack the financial means to achieve it. They provide financial assistance with tuition, fees and books in order to complete an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in a career-ready field. This program was made possible by the introduction of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) in 2012 – an executive order by President Obama that grants undocumented youth a two-year renewable reprieve from deportation, as well as the ability to legally work and attend school. My family immigrated to the state of Georgia when I was 13. Due to my undocumented status, strict state regulations barred me from receiving in-state tuition, financial aid, scholarships, as well as private loans, so I was not able to enroll in college after I graduated high school in 2005. At the time, TheDream.US program was new and only included less than 20 partner colleges around the country that accepted a cohort of Dreamers. You had to be eligible for in-state tuition in the partner school of your choosing. After I scanned the list of schools in states like New York, Florida, and California, I realized that I only qualified for one – a private university in Washington, D.C. which had no in-state/out-of-state requirement. At this point, I had been waiting for my chance to go to college for nine years, thus I was going to go wherever they would accept me! As it turns out, Trinity was the perfect fit for me. I immediately felt welcomed, comfortable, and supported at this institution – both as a woman of color and a Dreamer. At Trinity, I’ve received incredible support and encouragement to go after the goals that I never thought would be possible for me. From my fellow students, I gain immense self-confidence and motivation to work hard and make my mark on the world.
How will you use your education to become a dynamic leader in your community?
The privilege of higher education had been out of my reach for so many years. I spent a lot of that time ruminating on the value of a college degree and the many possibilities that it presents to better myself. Now that I have gotten the opportunity of freedom and independence to pursue my degree, I see the value even more due to the things I am learning about life and the world every day. And I see that many others still do not get the same opportunity. I am determined to work on behalf of immigrants and underprivileged populations, especially of color and lower-income who are often pushed to the margins of our society. My career goal is to tell stories regarding social justice through journalism. I hope to give a voice to those who struggle to achieve their dreams and progress in life in America and around the world. There are many people who helped me to get where I am today and I would like to provide that chance to others through my writing and service.
If you could issue a statement to young girls that could be broadcast for the whole world to see, what would you say to them?
Unfortunately, being women, we are inherently disadvantaged in life. My advice is to not let that fact stop you from doing anything. No matter where you were born or grew up – go after what you want; be as bold and confident and strong as you want; speak your mind and own your opinions; don’t let anyone make you feel “less than” because of your gender, race or physical appearance in any way.
What inspires you?
I am inspired by immigrants. They live and grow up in a country that does not accept them. Young immigrants feel like they do not belong in their native countries and yet they cannot fully be themselves or live their lives freely in the one place they call “home.” They fight to have the same opportunities as their American friends. They strive for happiness and success like any other human being. Young immigrants help their parents and take care of their siblings. They take on immense responsibility and mental burdens at a very young age. They face setbacks and disappointments on top of depression and hopelessness. For many, there is no end date in sight.
And yet, Dreamers have hope. They get up every morning. They work hard. They stay positive. They laugh and give generously. They become innovators and trailblazers. They don’t give up. In my experience, this has shaped me to be who I am today. I am the first person and the first woman in my family to go to college. For my parents, my brother, and all those others, I cannot give up. I must keep going to achieve my dreams and prove that I am worthy of that happiness and success, just like everyone else.
Want to share your voice? Please email email@example.com. In the subject line write, “I Am Trinity”.