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Jose Romero

(Mount Washington College)

Jose Romero was embarrassed to tell his friends why he couldn’t go to college the way they could. “My friends were going off to Florida State University. They said ‘Why aren’t you coming too? You’re a smart kid.’ I wasn’t really truthful. I said it was family issues.”

In a way it was. He was born in Guatemala and brought here as a four year old. He didn’t realize he wasn’t legal until it came time to get a driver’s license. “My parents said, ‘You don’t have that option.”

After high school graduation, he went to work at a gas station. His younger sister, who had been born in Los Angeles after the family arrived, went on to college. He wanted to do so too – badly. But because he didn’t qualify for in-state tuition, scholarships or loans, everything was out of his reach.

“Anything I tried was three times the price” his friends and his sister were paying.

At church one day he found some people talking about a scholarship “for people in my situation” and checked into it. His grades were good. He qualified for the scholarship, and now, at age 23, he’s enrolled in the online business administration degree program at Kaplan’s Mount Washington College.

Once he started talking more openly about his status, he found it wasn’t as hard as he expected.

“After I did start talking to friends, I got a lot of support. I had had friends who weren’t okay with the immigration situation, and I didn’t feel comfortable. Then I found I had other friends who said, ‘Don’t worry.’ That really helped me.”

His mom and dad brought him here hoping to give him a better life. Their education ended in second grade. In high school Jose he studied collision repair, which he loved. “I like working on cars in my spare time.” With his business degree, he dreams of opening his own automotive business some day.