By Levi, KIPP Austin Public Schools Alumnus
My mother fled her pharmacist job, our middle-class home, our life in Mexico, in a van in the night to escape an unhealthy marriage. I was 8 years old.
In the 12 years since, we moved 11 times. My mother cleaned houses and took odd jobs to support my older sister and me. We didn’t have much, just enough to get through each day. Our family lived paycheck to paycheck. When we were evicted, an aunt took us in.
At first, I didn’t have a clear idea of what Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) was. My sister enrolled and urged my mother to do the same for me. DACA meant I could begin working at age 15: Whether behind the counter at Subway or at a local grocery store, I chipped in on bills and rent. Even when high school meant twelve-hour days of classes and commuting, I bused tables and worked retail after hours to keep my family afloat. When my mother was diagnosed with two uterine tumors and forced out of a job, I used the money from my management consulting internship to rent her an affordable apartment and pay her medical bills. I always depended on my mother growing up. Thanks to DACA, when my mom needed my help I was able to offer it–us taking care of each other.
I always had in my mind that I wanted to attend college. But I was uncertain how I would afford tuition. My sister, at the top of her high school class, gave up a full ride to Texas A&M to attend the University of Texas at Austin with a partial scholarship plus a part-time job because it was closer to home. In Austin, she could help my mother out. But financial pressure mounted, work overtook her studies, and she had to drop out.
She regrets not having the chance to finish her degree, and always told me to never give up. Texas A&M offered me a scholarship, but it wasn’t enough. I reached out to Lycoming College, a small liberal arts school in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, that had worked with classmates from my high school. They were able to cover most expenses. I’d never visited Lycoming, hadn’t even considered it. But I went with my gut. As soon as the door opened, I took my chance. My coach, my mentor, and my sister gave me the courage to leave Texas for a small, conservative town far away. It’s not always easy living so far outside my comfort zone, but I didn’t want to give up the opportunity to help my family. Now, I’m studying to be a physician, perhaps an internist or a psychologist, inspired by my mother’s work in the clinic back in Mexico
DACA, the people around me, and God helped me get where I am today. I’m trying to get an education, make myself better, and help others. It’s heartbreaking that the government would get rid of this program because it’s helped so many people. Ending DACA closes the doors that were opened for all of us. Why are these opportunities taken away from people who just want to make this country better?