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Catalina of Florida International University is TheDream.US’ “DREAMer of the Week”

For Immediate Release: October 3, 2019

Contact: Nicky Vogt at 610-389-1314 and [email protected]


Catalina of Florida International University is TheDream.US’ “DREAMer of the Week”

Washington, DC – TheDream.US, the nation’s largest college access and success program for undocumented immigrant youth, is continuing its “DREAMer of the Week” feature – a weekly profile of a TheDream.US Scholar whose story offers a powerful example of the incalculable contributions of DREAMers to America. TheDream.US is the nation’s largest college access and success program for immigrant youth, having provided more than 5,000 college scholarships to DREAMers at more than 70 partner colleges in 16 states and Washington, DC. Catalina, the DREAMer of the Week, is one of TheDream.US’ 1,000 new Scholars in colleges across the country.

The Scholars’ stories are especially powerful and poignant as we near the November 12th Supreme Court oral arguments on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, an executive action, which provided temporary legal protection for undocumented youth, terminated by President Trump in September 2017. The legal limbo and uncertainty is affecting Scholars’ lives, health, and futures and threatens to keep Scholars from fulfilling their incredible potential.


This week’s DREAMer is Catalina, a Scholar of Florida International University: 

My parents were a constant presence of love and support in my life. I remember them being so happy when they were able to afford their first car in Chile. We had it for seven months before we sold it to pay for all the moving expenses to come to the United States. It’s sacrifices like these that add up to the biggest one – leaving everything you know and love behind for a life of better opportunity.

I was five when my parents decided to move to the U.S. It was exciting but also incredibly scary.  I remember coming home from the first day of kindergarten crying. I hadn’t been able to use the bathroom all day simply because I couldn’t communicate in English. The school told my parents that if I didn’t learn to speak and write the English language quickly, I would have to repeat the full year of kindergarten and fall a year behind. This was not an option for me. With the help of language programs like Leapfrog and Constant Reading, I learned to speak and write English in the span of two months.

The U.S. became my home through school. I participated in all the elementary spelling bees and took dance classes. But because we moved around so much throughout my childhood, it was hard to make friends and I didn’t want to become too attached to anything or anyone. It was lonely but my parents have always been there for me. The moment the U.S. really became my home was when two years after we’ve arrived, my parents asked me if I wanted to go back to Chile. I answered no. Even with every feeling of sadness and loneliness that I felt, I had already adjusted. The United States was, and is, my home. Disney World became my second home. I will forever cherish my first visit there. I couldn’t stop crying. Everything was so beautiful and as a young girl, I remember a sense of hope and the feeling of home, settling in my being.

One of our biggest prayers was answered in September of 2018, when my mother finally received her proper documentation after 12 years. For my father and I, it’s still a waiting game. The fear of getting deported is still very present in our everyday lives. I especially fear for my father, because he works on the streets everyday. At any moment, he could be stopped and questioned. I remember to count my blessings since my mom has held the same stable job for the past 10 years, which has been another miracle.

Because of TheDream.US, I will be the first in my family to finish my college degree. I hope to be a neonatal nurse practitioner and open a non-profit for less fortunate children. Children have always been my passion, and I love helping others. Even if my path doesn’t come to this specific career, I know my life and my future will be for helping others.

To other DREAMers, I say never give up. I know that along your journey, you might ask yourself whether all the hardships you went though were worth it. I’m telling you that they were and they are. The difficulties you’ve experienced in your journey to get to where you are now is what makes our success even better; we had to do and go through twice as much. There are so many opportunities out there for people like us, we just need to work a little bit harder. Look at how far you’ve come. Why stop now?

  • Read through TheDream.US Scholar story-bank, featuring powerful personal reflections from Scholars about their lives, journeys, and future goals here
  • Watch a new video featuring TheDream.US college graduates online here