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Norma Hernandez

Country of Origin: Mexico

Age of Arrival: 6 years old

Hometown: Reidsville, North Carolina

Degree: Nursing

I came to America, and North Carolina, when I was six with my parents and older sister. When we first enrolled in school, the teacher would simply give me a coloring book when she taught the other students grammar because I would “never understand what they were talking about.” In the evenings, my father would teach me what I had missed during the school day–how to read signs, how to count money, how to write.

Eventually, I started understanding what was being taught in school, and I adjusted to the new surroundings. I learned to love the mountains and the fresh air of North Carolina and would watch an American flag wave in the schoolyard each day. On the weekends during the fall season, my father would take us to the fair to eat funnel cakes, what he called “an American tradition.” His death in 2008 left an ache that has not left me.

In high school, I was involved in Gay-Straight Alliance Club and the Music Honors Society. My mother was working odd jobs of all hours to provide for us and pay for me and my sister’s tuition. My college advisor in high school spoke to me about TheDream.US, but I almost didn’t apply because I thought I wouldn’t get it. I am so glad I went for it. Without TheDream.US, I would have never made it this far. I will start college in the fall and hope to get a degree in forensic science. One day, I would love to pay off my mother’s debts, and ultimately use my work to promote kindness and acceptance among all Americans.

Being an immigrant can be a painful journey, I know that firsthand. But I would tell fellow DREAMers that they should not feel held back by their status, but should shoot for the stars regardless of how many people tell them that they might not succeed. Anyone who lays their head on American soil night after night is an American. DACA and TheDream.US have provided me opportunities that were once beyond my wildest dreams. Now, they are a reality.