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Dianeli Mendez

(Miami Dade College)

Dianeli Mendez’s dad never went to school at all; her mother only attended through elementary school. Dianeli is going to college — she will be the first person in her family to get a college degree. In the meantime she wants to be an inspiration all her family and to encourage them to go to school, too.

“I want them to be proud of me,” she said. “To think, ‘my sister is smart is doing something good.’”

She is the second youngest of five siblings; she also has three younger half-siblings. Two of her sisters do field work at a plant nursery, as did their mother before them. When Dianeli graduated from high school, she went to work at the plant nursery, too. Her ultimate goal, though, is to become a teacher.

Even without the scholarship, she tried going to school. The 22-year-old Dianeli lives with her sister and her sister’s children. “I get paid $8.50 an hour, and I work 40 hours,” Dianeli says. “If I didn’t’ have the scholarship, I would never have been able to go to college.”

“I tried to encourage my sisters to go to school, and I convinced two of them go back. One of them got her GED. It made me so proud.”

Dianeli wants to tell other students, “Don’t be afraid. When I was in high school, I didn’t have my documents, so it felt like many doors were closed. I didn’t even do the SAT or the ACT because I thought, ‘I’m not going to be able to go to college.’ Now I know that there are people who believe that we – the DREAMers – will be someone.”