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Jackie, 20, from Houston, born in Mexico.

America is a sea of endless opportunities. I have had the opportunity to gain an education, to meet people with different backgrounds, to make my parents proud, and to build a new home. Perhaps it was the fact that I arrived at age 6 or the fact that my parents always told me this country was home, but I never saw myself as “foreign” to America. How could I? To this day I can name each and every one of my elementary school teachers because of the impact their dedication had in my life. Thanks to my teachers, I was able to master an entirely new language, learn about American traditions and way of life, and realize the value of education. Allowing each of us to achieve our potential strengthens the country. I am a first-generation college student at the University of Houston and the first of my four sisters to attend college. My mother never had the chance to even set foot in a classroom. However, despite her illiteracy, she has always found a way to work in order to support my sisters and me. My father was able to complete some high school, but had to leave school to be able to provide food for my grandparents. Aside from our “silent” lives and missing my loved ones back in Mexico, I had a childhood like any other: I played with my friends, I learned as much as I could in school, and I annoyed my sisters whenever possible. My parents made sure I never forgot that I was still a kid, regardless of everything I had witnessed at such an early age. I, on the other hand, cannot ignore all the sacrifices my parents made, and continue to make to this day. I have a vivid memory of my mother the day after we arrived in this country. She took off her shoes and I saw most of her toenails fall off like a layer of skin. The most significant sacrifice I had to make was leaving behind my grandfather who had become my second father. It was during my grandfather’s last days, when I was nine years old, that I learned that I was undocumented. I kept insisting we visit him back in Mexico so I could “go and make it all better with one of my hugs.” My parents eventually had to sit me down and explain why I couldn’t visit my grandfather as I pleased, why I couldn’t visit Disneyland like my classmates, and why we had come to this country in the first place. Because of my parents’ sacrifices, I tried to give them reasons to keep pushing forward: I was the best student I could possibly be, I participated in my school’s spelling bee, I got all the diplomas I possibly could, and I always told them I would make them proud. After graduating college, I hope to become a successful construction manager. I hope to attend graduate school and eventually receive a Master of Science Construction Management. On the personal side, my only dream is to one day buy my parents their own house and reduce their need to work. I want to one day provide them with economic stability and ensure they are
healthy for years to come. I know there is no way to repay the sacrifices they have made for me, but I hope a college diploma and a successful career assures them their sacrifices were not in vain. That’s my advice for others: whenever you feel discouraged, simply think of your parents or family’s sacrifices, your own sacrifices, and the satisfaction you will feel when you finally wear your cap and gown and walk down that stage. Imagine the future you will forge with the sacrifices you make today. America has opened so many doors for me, and I feel I became part of the country the moment I set foot in it. DACA has enabled me to pursue a higher education, apply for scholarships, and dream of one day repaying my family and this country for all the opportunities they have given me.