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Areli, 18, from Wisconsin, born in Mexico

I always say I am from Wisconsin even though I was born in Mexico, because Wisconsin feels like home to me. TheDream.US scholarship has given me a chance to chase my goals, like any other kid from Wisconsin. This is also possible for me because I received DACA in 2015, allowing me to become “DACAmented” and work and study in this country without fear of deportation. DACA recipients everywhere are only trying to achieve the American Dream. We are not all going to be neurosurgeons or electrical engineers; we just want to contribute and fit into this society. We, as immigrants, have hope and faith in this country. We are not perfect, but we have a lot to offer to this country. In many ways, I had it much easier than a lot of immigrants in this country. I already had family living in the States before I came here, and my mother, though single, had a steady flow of income when we moved. I was also so young when I moved, that I had not yet made the lifelong relationships that come with age. Thankfully without those, I was not subject to the heartbreaking separation faced by many. This is not to say my transition here was totally seamless or easy, and a significant challenge that I will never forget came in middle school when our teachers began to talk to us about the importance of going to college. Naturally, as an engaged student and driven person, I got excited by all this chatter and decided to take initiative to start looking into scholarships. To my dismay, nearly every scholarship I looked into required a Social Security number. I didn’t even know what a Social Security number was at the time, but I knew I did not have one. I asked my mom about it and my mom heartbreakingly explained to me why I did not have one: my immigration status. I remember feeling, at this moment, like I had taken one step forward and two steps back in life. I developed this sense of inferiority relative to my peers because I was undocumented. Since then, I’ve been battling self-doubt and feelings of anxiety. For a while, I second guessed myself and viewed myself as less competent as the person sitting next to me. Today, I am more aware of where these feelings stem from, and I’m able to manage my anxiety levels, but it is still a day to day challenge I face as an undocumented immigrant. My experiences with these confusing and scary emotions give me a tremendous sense of empathy for people who are going through similar challenges. In high school, I was a part of a group called Girl Talk, a group centered around the principle of empowering, educating, motivating, and inspiring young women of our school and town to become aware of how they can impact their surroundings by becoming involved in community service. This was such a meaning-making and positive experience for me that I hope to continue to give back to my
community in a capacity that highlights the importance and benefits of maintaining and prioritizing mental health. I think this emphasis on mental health will be important as I continue my education at Eastern Connecticut State University and inevitably face a challenging, stressful time during the course of my studies. However, I would say to anyone who is listening: sometimes the ones who grew up with scarce resources end up being the ones who appreciate and take full advantage of the opportunities given to them because they know how hard things can be when given very little. I plan to confront any challenges or difficult times during my college education head-on, and continue to set big goals for myself. TheDream.US scholarship has enabled me to focus on my future with less anxiety and more hope that I can successfully contribute to this country in the way I want to. I have told my immigration story to many people. Some don’t understand; others simply won’t understand. I hope by sharing this story, I can get a few more to see the world through the eyes of a DACAmented student and Dream.US scholarship recipient.