GEAR-Up programs helps undocumented Wa-Hi student access education

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At a young age, I envisioned myself becoming an actress, doctor, teacher and everything else a small child could think of being, but as I grew up, I realized I would have to overcome many challenges to reach my dream of becoming one of those.

As a child, I did not care nor notice what others said to me about being Mexican, but as I grew older, I felt judged for it. I remember in elementary school I was in special bilingual classes. I faced many struggles in school because of the way I spoke and wrote in English so I was often separated from other kids.

At home, I can remember hearing stories on TV about undocumented workers, students and families who were defined as criminals because they had crossed the border between the United States and Mexico.

I never actually paid attention to what was happening around me, but when I was in the third grade at Prospect Point School, I remember my teacher telling my class about a wonderful field trip to a museum in Seattle. I was filled with joy because I was going to go with my friends to see this wonderful place.

When I arrived home from school that day, I told my mom about this trip, and she told me I could not go because she was afraid I would get “deported,” a word at my age I didn’t understand.

In fifth grade, I found out more about my status and the definition of “deported.”

I asked my mom about why being undocumented was not acceptable in the United States. She told me that when I was about 1 or 2 years old, she had brought my sister and me to the United States so we could be reunited with my dad. She explained to me that I was not considered a legal resident because of the way I entered the United States.

I was shocked to know I had the same story as the people on TV. From that day on, I felt discriminated against and afraid of the country I had considered my home because I had no status in this country. I had to hide because I was afraid of being deported to Mexico, a place I did not remember and did not know.

During my seventh-grade year, I was given the opportunity to apply for a college scholarship program offered through the state. I applied, but I later found out I wasn’t accepted because of my immigration status.

I felt my heart get crushed into millions of pieces. I felt very sad. I remember the rage and anger I felt toward my parents for not having me in the United States and the anger I felt toward a system that seemed to be discriminating against children like me.

I also was angry with people and society calling us “illegal aliens.” All those dreams of becoming an actress, doctor, teacher, and everything else a small child could think of being were not possible. There were too many challenges to overcome.

As I started high school, my dreams of college and a career were reignited. My mom, through the GEAR-UP program at school, found out about ways for me to be able to go to college. Thanks to the program, we are finding the help we need to learn how I might attend college.

My dreams are getting closer and closer to being a reality. I am really thankful that in my middle school and high school there is such a great program to help undocumented students.

With GEAR-UP’s help, I hope one day I will graduate from college with a profession and have a career I will pursue for the rest of my life.

I hope others in the same position as I am will someday have the chance to go to college. I hope to inspire others like me to go to college and pursue their dreams no matter what others think of us.

I also hope that one day there will be immigration reform and the law will be changed so undocumented students get the chance to go to college and have a pathway to become American citizens. They will then have the opportunity to be productive members of our society.

I will make it through college and I hope others like me can too.

This student is an active member of the Walla Walla High School Latino Club. Her name has been withheld due to her immigration status. She is a Wa-Hi Link crew leader, and a volunteer for the Garrison Night School pre-literacy program. She plans on attending Walla Walla Community College or Washington State University this fall.

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