I am a farm girl from central Nebraska. My parents raised us with a strong work ethic and Christian values. We owned and worked on our farm – feeding the livestock, working in the fields, and, of course, attending our country church on Sunday. My sister and I attended a country school a mile down the road where I was one of 3 students in my class. I finished high school in a small town of 800 about 10 miles away.
Despite this small circle of influence, I grew up with big dreams. I had the fortune of having parents who, while they did not have a college education, believed that if we worked hard and were determined, we could do anything we wanted. And I believed them. With the help of scholarships, hard work and some luck, I was able to go to college and have had a multi-faceted career as a lawyer, general counsel of a technology firm, and a leader at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Today, I lead a non-profit scholarship program for DREAMers. DREAMers are undocumented immigrant youth who came to this country at a very young age. They have grown up this country, gone to our elementary and high schools, participated in our sports and academic clubs, and worked in our communities to make them better places to live. They are – for all purposes – as American as you and I.
Why DREAMers, you might ask, instead of other disadvantaged students living in our urban and rural communities? Because, put simply, I believe that ALL young people living in our country have the basic right of an education – including the opportunity to go to college so they can have meaningful careers and support their families, communities and our nation.
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