Set your goals high; don’t be discouraged by critics

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I was brought to the United States by my parents from Mexico when I was 5 years old so life in America is all I have come to know. Any childhood memories of where I came from come through my parents talking about how life was back in Mexico.

Adjusting to a new life was not easy and learning the English language did not come easily especially since I had to do it on my own.

It wasn’t until my fifth-grade year that I was required to take English as a Second Language class. That year, I saw around me posters of universities and how this “thing” called college can help me achieve my dreams.

At that point I told myself, “You’re going to go there,” and in the fifth grade I made it my goal to attend college. As teachers brought up going to college more and more, I became more interested and motivated to go.

I still remember that day when we had an assignment to make posters that explained a dream we wanted to pursue. After making my poster, I was filled with happiness; I couldn’t wait till I showed the teacher my goal of going to college.

Everything changed after I showed him; all he did was look at my poster, then he looked at me and said, “Why are you doing this? You’re not going to make it that far.”

That experience became the biggest event of discrimination and discouragement I had ever faced. It shattered the only hope and dream I ever had.

As time went by, I said to myself, “You’re not going to be another statistic,” and, in all honesty, proving this teacher wrong became my biggest motivation.

Throughout my four years at Walla Walla High School I was enrolled in a program called AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination), which is a college readiness system. Throughout high school, I didn’t think I could attend college because of my undocumented status, but AVID made me believe in my dream of attending college.

My senior year was my biggest battle yet. I was balancing AP classes, extracurricular activities, and the responsibilities that came with being senior class president.

I applied to five colleges in which I received four acceptance letters and of course the dreaded “I’m sorry to inform you,” letter came from one. That was a disappointment because of all the hard work that went into applying, but then I realized it wasn’t my number one choice and I quickly got over it.

Having received those acceptance letters gave me a sense of much pride and my parents were proud every step of the way since I was closer to my goal of attending college.

Sadly, I had to decline on all of the acceptance letters and the substantial scholarship offers due to the fact I couldn’t afford the living and other extra expenses of college since I didn’t qualify for federal financial aid due to my undocumented status.

But since I received enough money from private scholarships to cover my education, I decided to attend Walla Walla Community College for my first year.

Much change has happened since my freshmen year at WWCC. On June 15, 2012, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals was implemented granting those who are undocumented student immigrants legal status.

This new status has given me the authorization to work and earn my own money to attend college.

I am currently working at Walla Walla High School as an AVID tutor. I am giving back to the program that didn’t give up on me. I want the AVID students to see that the program can do the same for them.

On Feb. 25, as a student representative, I attended the ceremony in Olympia to watch Gov. Jay Inslee sign the Real Hope Act (also known as the Dream Act). This act provides undocumented college students access to the state financial aid system.

It was an honor for me to be a part of that history. As a first-generation student, being at the ceremony made me realize all of my hard work had finally paid off and my dreams can come true.

This act will help make my dreams and the dreams of many other undocumented students a reality.

This fall I will transfer to Washington State University to work toward a degree in communications, sociology or criminology.

One of my favorite quotes from Martin Luther King Jr. is: “Take the first step in faith, even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”

I had to learn to take those steps many times over the past few years. I needed to have faith that one day my hard work would pay off and then lead me to WSU. With my new status and the hope of state financial aid, I will not have to say goodbye to my college opportunity again.

I have worked hard to get to this point in my life. I didn’t become a statistic as my teacher said I would be. I will not give up on my goals because I am a “Dreamer.”

As Cesar Chavez said, “¡Si Se Puede!” “Yes, it can be done!”

Ana Andrade Lara is a 2012 Walla Walla High School graduate and a current student at Walla Walla Community College. She is currently an Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) tutor at Walla Walla High School. As a student at Walla Walla High School she was involved in the Latino Club, AVID, Garrison Night School Pre-literacy program, Associated Student BodyB, and track. In her senior year, she served as class president. She plans to attend Washington State University this fall.

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