Faith and Fitness Power My American Dream

Roberto was eight when his uncle brought him to the United States in search of a better life. As a current college junior, Roberto is fulfilling his American Dream. Now he is praying that Congress takes action to protect DACA recipients like him.

Roberto DACA

By Roberto, KIPP Nashville Alumnus

I grew up in a small farming town Guanajuato, Mexico, where I helped my grandparents care for their sheep in the fields. It was a hard life. My world changed when I was 8 and my uncle brought me to the United States.

My mother didn’t have the money to pay the coyote to bring me here, so my uncle helped out. My only memory of the journey was my mom yelling as she clutched my hand and we ran beneath a bridge. Days later, I was riding in my uncle’s car to Nashville, my new home, a city I love. I haven’t left since.

At first, America was like an alien society. The first day of third grade was awful, trying to understand what was going on around me. I didn’t speak any English, but was supposed to be learning math. My teacher stayed with me after school to help me learn the language. It was awkward at the beginning–I was the only Hispanic student.

Today I’m 21, a junior at Trevecca Nazarene University, a Christian liberal arts college in Nashville. As a Catholic, I always wanted to attend a school with strong Christian values. I study sports management with a minor in business, and hope to become an athletic director at a high school or college. I am passionate about helping teenagers in the same way so many caring adults have helped me.

All my life I’ve been blessed with incredible mentors and coaches. Sports has always been a big part of me. I played varsity soccer for the East Nashville Eagles starting freshman year, was selected as the Most Valuable Player senior year, and was the kicker for the football team for a season. I’m involved with Steve’s Club, a national network of CrossFit gyms that work with at-risk young people and keep them off the streets. I got to know my CrossFit coach, who opened her gym to teens. CrossFit is amazing: It challenges you physically and gives you perspective mentally.

This mental toughness has helped me understand what Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) means to me. DACA has enabled me to get where I am right now, to fulfill the American dream. DACA is not just a bridge I’ve made for myself, but one I’ve been able to walk with the guidance of so many. I’ve transformed from a shy kid afraid to join activities to someone eager to engage in many different things. In spite of financial hardship, I would be the first generation in my family to go to college. My mom remarried and had my little brother and sister. She gave everything that she had just to get me here. My uncle is a contractor and has spent every extra dime to help with my tuition. I work long hours at a legal call center, and as an intern doing outreach for my old middle school, to cover costs.

Mexico is where I was born. It’s not where I wanted to be. Once I came to the United States, I was happy and blessed for this opportunity. My girlfriend is in the same situation as me, and is scared what the future holds. She never imagined she would attend college. Now she is studying nursing. DACA recipients are contributing to this country like anybody else would. We are praying that Congress takes action to protect students like us.