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Miguel Almanza

Miguel Almanza,  22, from Arizona, born in Mexico.

I want to use my education to travel to developing countries and contribute to alleviating poverty in places that do not have the opportunities that we do here. Another interest of mine is the fight against neurological disorders, including Alzheimer’s. I find the idea of someone losing their memories worse than death. Our pasts and memories play such instrumental roles in shaping who we are today. No one should have those erased. My story of leaving Mexico and coming to this country is not one of eventually overcoming struggle. Instead, it is a story of continually confronting struggle and — most importantly — it is a story of opportunity. I don’t know if it is special, but it is mine. While living in Tempe, Arizona as a child, I first discovered what it meant to be undocumented in this country. After learning about my immigration status, I remember being in a constant state of worry. My childhood, then, was one filled with what is best described as consistent caution. I can’t tell you it was great or terrible — it was just how I grew up; it was a means for survival. When I first started elementary school in Arizona at age eight, I was put in remedial classes because I could not speak English well. The classes bored me, but I was able to remain focused and driven by the idea of opportunity. My parents had risked everything to bring me here, and I promised myself at a very young age that I would take advantage of every single opportunity that came my way. By middle school, I was placed into higher level courses. My father graduated from high school, but my mother had to work and wasn’t able to finish school. They are two of the smartest people I know, having successfully raised a family in an unknown country and making it a place we now call home. I’m not sure that is something anyone can learn in school. With so much on their plate, there wasn’t much time left over for us to do family activities together. Their work ethic was and still is a huge source of admiration for me, but, growing up, it was also, in some ways, a source of sadness. My friends at school would describe the kinds of activities they did with their parents and siblings on school vacation. Vacation – or really just free time – was not on the table for us. I remember never expressing this feeling because it seemed unfair; I never wanted to make my parents feel bad. For as long I can remember, I just wanted to somehow take the weight off their shoulders – to make things easier for them. This left me feeling helpless at times. My younger brother is the only one in our family who is a citizen. We all have high hopes for him, but there are days I fear we expect too much and put too much pressure on him to succeed. TheDream.US gave me the financial stability I needed. Without it, I honestly don’t know if I would still be in the United States. I can’t speak for everyone but, in my experience, people who have received this scholarship strive to utilize it completely. For me, this scholarship was the shovel to help me begin to make the road to the rest of my life.
I am incredibly fortunate to be a student at Arizona State University majoring in biomedical engineering. ASU is known to have a strong engineering program, and it is in-state so I am not too far from my family. After graduating, I hope to continue my education and pursue a Doctorate someday.