By Miriam, Kindergarten Teacher, Green Dot Public Schools Alumna
My parents and I arrived in the United States in 1995 in search of the “American Dream.” Our transition to the U.S. was one of great hardship. My parents, both labor workers, worked long hours every day to make ends meet. To keep myself busy and avoid the frequent thoughts of deportation, I refuged myself in my education. I remember walking into my kindergarten classroom knowing zero English but being overwhelmingly excited to become ‘more American.’ Through education, I thought I would be able to gain the tools needed to become a productive citizen of this country.
I became aware of the implications of my legal status my sophomore of high school. After years of working diligently and becoming Salutatorian, I was made aware of the fact that college might just be a dream for me. As an undocumented student, I was ineligible to receive federal financial aid to fund my education. Devastated by this news I began to seek resources with my college counselor’s guidance and support. Despite all our efforts, we often found ourselves frustrated given the limited number of options for students like me. Regardless, my counselor encouraged me to apply to over ten colleges in hope that one would see my potential!
Acceptance letters began to arrive in my mailbox along with emails shortly after denying me access to most, if not all, financial aid. School after school expressed their sincere apologies for their inability to make my college education a possibility. On April 13, 2011, I received the news that changed my life. I was accepted to Loyola Marymount University on a full-ride scholarship. My dream of pursuing a higher education was made possible. More than just being a place of learning, LMU became a second home to me.
In October 2012, I applied for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) program. After becoming DACAmented, I began to live a ‘normal life.’ For once, I felt comfortable disclosing my status because I no longer feared being deported. I felt like I could finally set goals and more certain of the possibility of achieving them. On May 2015, I walked the staged at my commencement ceremony as my parents watched from the audience. Filled with joy they clapped and shed a few tears. While they strived to provide a decent upbringing for my siblings and I, they never imagined sitting in a crowd with affluent white families cheering on their undocumented daughter as she graduated with honors from a private catholic school.
My hardships as a student led me to become an educator. I now teach kindergarten full-time in South Los Angeles and I’m pursuing my Masters in Elementary Education. It is through the DACA program that my dreams of thriving in this country have been made a possibility. While I am aware of the desires of many to terminate this program, I am determined to stand up for my current students and every other undocumented student in this country worthy of a college education!