My sixth birthday began like any other day. Mom wished me felicitaciones and feliz cumpleaños and then packed the whole family and made our way to the airport. I held on to a giant lollipop the entire time, it was one of the many gifts my family gave me on my special day. We all walked together and at a checkpoint, we said our goodbyes and separated - our destination: New York. I didn’t know that was the last time I would see my family for 12 years. On March 21, 1988, my life changed completely.
My dad was a professor and lawyer and mom was a nurse in Mexico. Education was important in our family, but navigating the U.S. education system was incredibly difficult. They were busy, taking on jobs as cooks, cleaning houses, manually putting together pens, and other odd jobs. They often depended on us as the bridge to communicate with teachers.
I did not know I was undocumented until sophomore year of high school. When I spoke to my parents, they explained that we had come to America legally but that we had overstayed our visas which meant that we were undocumented. I was fortunate to have a path to citizenship which made the naturalization process easier, but that didn’t make the college application process simple. My parents didn’t know how to help me complete applications, review my essays, or help me study for the SAT’s.
Of the schools I was accepted into, I chose Stony Brook University which offered the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP). This program provided access to higher education for economically disadvantaged students who possessed the potential to succeed in college, but whose academic preparation in high school did not fully prepare them to pursue college education successfully. The tutoring services, counseling, academic advising, workshops, and book stipends were the support I didn’t know I would need and made graduation possible for me.
Looking back, I recognize that without free lunch at school, I would have been hungry and maybe unable to learn. I realize that without the kindness and compassion of school personnel, we wouldn’t have been able to make ends meet. Without after school programs and special services like ESL, I would not have been able to read by 4th grade or be prepared for post-secondary education. This is why I am so passionate about the work we do at Stand for Children.
We believe ALL children deserve an equal opportunity to succeed in life. Far too many children, through no fault of their own, aren’t getting the education they need to prepare them for the future. We are passionately committed to righting this wrong. I am especially passionate about ensuring that we protect DREAMers. Law-abiding, productive students, graduates, and teachers should not face the threat of deportation when they are positively contributing to our great country. These are our friends, classmates, colleagues, and neighbors and they deserve our support in form of taking a stand for a law that will offer lasting protections that afford them an opportunity to continue pursuing their goals.