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Jasmine Polanco

Country of Origin: Dominican Republic

Age of Arrival: 4 years old

Hometown: Bronx, NY

Degree: Biology


I came to this country when I was about four years old. When I first stepped into this country I was confused as to where I was, a lot of faces looked unfamiliar, the only two people I recognized were my parents.


My parents left me behind for a year in order for them to be able to come over here, they told me that they didn’t want to leave my sister or I behind, but it was something that needed to be done. They told me as soon as they got here, they were looking for ways to be able to bring my sister and I over. About a year later here I was.


I was young when my parents brought me over to the United States, so I didn’t know what exactly was going on, all I knew was that I was going to see my parents again. But I remember every night asking for my family members that were over at the Dominican Republic. I would wake up every day and not see them, when usually their faces were all I saw when I woke up first thing in the morning.


A year passed. I was five years old, and my parents told me it was time to start school. I remember my mom putting on my uniform, she did my hair nicely, prepared me a lunchbox and out the door we went. When I got there, I didn’t feel out of place, I didn’t feel like I didn’t belong there of course I was a child, so I wasn’t really thinking about the fact that I was an undocumented immigrant.  I walked into class that day and like I said I didn’t really feel out of place, but I was very confused on what the people around me were saying. You see when I was a child, I only knew of one language, Spanish, so when I walked into class that day, I went around speaking Spanish to everyone I tried starting conversations with. Some replied back, others mumbled and made weird facial expressions. At this point I knew that not everyone understood me, just like I didn’t understand what most of the students were saying. Even though I didn’t really understand the language, that didn’t stop me from excelling at my classes. My teachers were very understanding of my situation, of course they didn’t know I was an undocumented immigrant, they just saw me as a child who came into this country and doesn’t completely know the language. My teachers made sure that I still knew what was going on around me, they made sure that I understood the classes. They also took time out of their day to help me get familiar with the language. A few months passed by and I found myself having conversations with other students in English. Little by little, I found it less difficult to understand what others were saying to me and about a year later I think I would officially announce myself as an English speaker. Now that the language barrier was no longer a barrier, I didn’t think anything would try to stop me from achieving my dreams.


Since I was a young girl, I knew that I wanted to become a pediatrician. As I got older, I was only surer of it. My parents have worked so hard since they stepped foot in this country and I want to make sure I make all their struggles worth it.  I made sure I stayed on top of my classes, and even though I wasn’t a perfect student, I was proud of myself. I made mistakes, but I bounced back and learned from them. Even though some things were very confusing to me, I always understood the importance of receiving an education.


I now have thirteen years living in the U.S. Thirteen years without seeing my loved ones back in the Dominican Republic.  I cry at night thinking of the worst possible scenarios. What if my grandma dies and I don’t get to see her or hug her one more time. Thoughts like these just pass my mind and I start thinking about all the reasons for why we should leave everything behind and go back to a place to where we are wanted.


But then I start thinking, “am I really just going to give it all up?” All my hard work and dedication for nothing.  My number one goal in life is to make my parents proud of what I am achieving, giving up on my dreams is not only going to make them feel disappointed but it’s going to make all the years they have been away from their families for nothing.


I don’t want to be known as someone who gives up because they are going through a difficult situation. I have younger siblings so what type of example would I be setting for them if I just gave up? My immigration status shouldn’t be the reason why I stop pursuing my passion. I don’t want it to define me or what I am capable of achieving. I view my status as another obstacle, an obstacle that I can beat, so that at the end I still come out successful.


Applying for “TheDream.US National Scholarship” was one of my ways of slowly defeating this obstacle. Due to my status I don’t get any really help from the government. Other scholarships also have the requirement of you having to be either a legal resident or U.S. citizen- I am neither. So, when it was time to start going through the college application process, my family and I were extremely worried about how we were going to make this happen. College is expensive, especially for families like mine. I don’t come from a very wealthy background, so we were stressed thinking of possible solutions to this problem, but we were sure we were going to get through it.


One day at school my high school counselor came up to me and told me about a scholarship opportunity that was for students like me and my hopes went through the roof. This IS the opportunity we were looking for, this is exactly what we needed.


I started my application process and I submitted all the require documentations, which were just recommendations and essays, I was able to submit it. Now the wait had begun.  I prayed and prayed that I would receive this scholarship because I really needed it as a stepping stone to get closer to my goal. I checked my email every day and I saw nothing, so I started feeling a little defeated. I was already discussing with my parents that we needed to look for other ways to be able to afford my education.


Until one day I received an email from TheDream.US and the only word that immediately made my heart start racing was “congratulations.” I immediately opened the email and started jumping because I was official a Dream U.S. Scholarship recipient. As soon as I told my mom, I could just see from her face how proud she was of me, and that just made me feel even better. She called my whole family and told them about another one my achievements. They were all thrilled by the news.


Thanks to this scholarship I was given a fair chance at receiving an education. I wasn’t taken away from the opportunity of pursuing my career. My advice to other applicants and undocumented immigrants that feel like there is no way for them to succeed is, don’t use your immigration status as an excuse. Use it as your motivation. Prove all those people wrong that said that there was no way for you to succeed. Make yourself proud, let yourself be able to say I defeated another obstacle in front of me. Be an example for those looking up to you and make it known that giving up should never be an option. Don’t let your immigration status define who you are as a person or what you’re capable of doing. Surpass the expectations that this country has for immigrants. Let’s make our struggles worth it. If the key you have doesn’t open the door in front of you, look for other doors that will. Even though all odds are against us, there are people out there willing to help us, we just need to seek out those opportunities and use them to our advantage.


Life as an undocumented immigrant is everything but easy. You have this part of you that you can’t really share with anyone because you’re afraid of the judgments or reactions. I want to be able to achieve all these great things and then be able to say, “I did it while being undocumented.”