For Immediate Release: October 24, 2019
Contact: Nicky Vogt at 610-389-1314 and [email protected]
Paola of Hunter College 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 nearly 5,000 college scholarships to DREAMers at more than 70 partner colleges in 16 states and Washington, DC.
As Paola’s story exemplifies, DREAMers are America’s doctors, nurses, and health care professionals. There are more than 700,000 DREAMers who rely on DACA to expand their opportunities, and 27,000 DACA recipients who work in the health care industry. Paola hopes to be one of the 27,000.
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 Paola of Hunter College:
It took me years to finally realize that my status doesn’t define me. To many, a degree is nothing more than a piece of paper. But for me and my family, it is a symbol. A symbol of all the sacrifices my parents made for our family. All the late nights I had, working hard for my future. A college degree makes it all worth it. With a Bachelor’s degree in hand, I will be able to pursue a career that I’ve always wanted.
Although I am not sure which profession is right for me right now, I am certain that I want to help people through medicine. The operating room is a magical place where strangers come together to help people live better lives. The success stories of immigrants like top neurosurgeon Dr. Alfredo Quinones-Hinojosa and first generation Mexican-American citizens like Jose Moreno Hernandez, the engineer and former NASA astronaut, have taught me that my journey will be long and difficult. There will be moments when I will fall, but I will have to come back up 10 times stronger.
I was 10 years old when I asked my parents, “Why can’t I go to Mexico with my brothers and cousins? Did I do something wrong? Are you both mad at me?” Their response was “No! It’s not that at all. You just don’t have the papers that they have, because you weren’t born here.” Being 10, I assumed the documents were going to be easy to get and that all I needed was a passport like the rest of my family. Then they explained to me what it meant to be undocumented and all the risks that came with it.
Five years later, when I was 15, I wanted to look for a job to earn my own money. It was then my parents told me that I didn’t have a social security number. Trying to find a job without a social security number was not an option. I have never felt more isolated than I did in that moment. My parents and I are the only undocumented people in my family, and I’ve always felt a bit distant from the rest of my family because of that.
Although I don’t remember the journey here, my parents told me I had a tough time adjusting as a 3-year-old. Apparently, all I wanted to do was go back to Mexico, and I didn’t know where I was. It’s weird to hear that now, because I don’t even remember ever living in Mexico. I am very proud of being Mexican and my heritage, but I’ve lived in America for over 18 years, and it’s all I’ve ever known.
Growing up in America was easy for the most part, up until my parents told me that I was undocumented. Now it’s 11 years later, and I still feel a little uneasy wherever I go, especially in this political climate. All of my friends are U.S. citizens, whom I am very close to and trust deeply. They couldn’t have been more supporting, loving, and understanding – for that I’m very grateful.
In college, all I hope for is to succeed in my classes and have a normal experience – to just be in my 20s.
- 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