By Gaby Pacheco April 5, 2018
Abi, 25, from Arizona, born in Mexico
We all are many things: I am a first-generation college student. I am a mom. I am a wife. I am an immigrant. I hope that my story can be one of hope and encouragement to not only the young, but to those who have families of their own but still dream of higher education. As a mother, I want my children to know that whatever their goal, it is achievable. My beliefs and goals are built on my family’s sacrifices and journey. “En mi tierra y aunque no coma,”it’s my land, even if I don’t eat. My grandmother’s words repeated in my head as I walked eight hours with my mom – with each step, my grandmother and my home a bit further away. I was mad at my parents. They’d been gone for a year, and now they had come back to make us leave all we knew behind. I didn’t want to leave. I missed my friends, my home, my language. The first year was hard. I sat alone as words that I couldn’t understand enveloped me. I’d fall asleep in class, and wake up in a classroom alone. The other children had gone to recess. I hadn’t known. I would come home from school and both my parents were still at work in the factory. Finally, my mom quit to take care of me and my younger siblings while we adjusted to life and school. My parents took us to church on the weekends, and we helped my mom sell tamales on the weekends to help my dad with expenses. They both worked tirelessly for us, eventually buying a house. They were one of the first families in our town to be homeowners. Many other families, especially mixed-status families, followed suit. After that first hard year, I adjusted. The United States became home. Our country and all of her offerings – the library at school, the teachers, the education I received, and my freedom to dream – became my element. I made friends, ran for and won the eighth grade student council presidency, joined JROTC in high school, was a member of the National Honor Society, and graduated at the top of my class. It wasn’t until my senior year of high school that my status was made abundantly clear. My friends – my classmates with the same or worse grades, started getting scholarships and college acceptances. My teachers tried to help me, but state universities were too expensive and private universities were reluctant to accept undocumented students. My parents worked full time jobs, had a mortgage, and five other kids. I couldn’t ask them to help. While my friends went off to college, I started working for tips only at a restaurant, helping to pay for one of my family’s vans. Why couldn’t my friends’ story be my story? Why was a piece of paper so important? I met my husband Moises at church. He’s also undocumented. He’s self-employed and was impassioned when he talked about work. He made me realize that being undocumented can be a
barrier, but it’s not a roadblock. He made me realize that I could do more with my life. Moises and I married and moved to Phoenix. A year later, in-state tuition passed for DACA-students and then in 2014 I applied for TheDream.US scholarship. In December 2015, I received the scholarship. I’m a firm believer in God, and I truly believe He sent me this blessing. Professionally, I hope to open my own accounting practice to help low income individuals who wish to open their own business. I hope to provide guidance and resources to minimize the struggle of opening their own business. I want to help those whose dreams are to contribute to the greatness of our country, as I believe we are all part of that greatness. Today, with DACA and TheDream.US scholarship, I’m happy to be writing my story.