Logo for: TheDream.us

Yari Ortega

Country of Origin: Mexico

Age of Arrival: 7 years old

Hometown: Forest Park, GA

Degree: Sociology

 

When I first arrived in the U.S., I felt lost. I held on to the one thing that I knew I wanted: knowledge and a good education. I became a book worm and did everything I could to learn. Thanks to TheDream.US scholarship, I will be a first generation college student. I will do anything to make my mother proud. She sent me to this country 13 years ago for me to get an education, and I will not let her down. I plan to obtain my Bachelor’s degree and return to Georgia to help the immigrant community.

 

I believed that without the access to higher education, I would be another statistic of yet another immigrant who works from sun up to sun down making minimum wage to survive. I want to learn as much as I can and prove that the immigrant population is here to make their dreams come true. I want to testify to those who stand against us that no matter how much they want us out, we were brought here because our parents believe in the American Dream.

 

I come from a single parent household and am the youngest of seven. All of my family, with the exception of one sister, have no immigration status and work hard labor jobs. My mom works very hard as a custodian for a factory and despite being 60-years-old, will not be retiring any time soon. We migrated to the U.S. one by one. When I turned seven I came to the U.S. I remember we traveled to the frontera, and I wasn’t sure what was happening. A lady I did not know came and my mom told me to go with her, and that she would see me soon. I cried so much, but now I know she did what she thought was best. We were separated for almost two years until she came to the U.S. to live with us.

 

My transition into American life was hard and was held back a grade in school due to the language barrier. I struggled with pronouncing different words, and was bullied for most of my time in elementary school. I’ll never forget when my fifth grade teacher called me out in front of the whole class for mistaking “man” for “men.” Ever since that moment, I’ve endlessly read books. I would say the words out loud in order to learn how to pronounce them.

 

Similar to word pronunciations, I didn’t really see the difference between my legal or illegal status as a kid. That all changed when I was 12. Someone broke into my house while I was sleeping. They beat me up and then robbed the house. When the police came, they asked my sisters for our IDs, but we didn’t have any. The police officer took one look at me, my face bruised and in pain, and said he could only take a statement. He left without doing anything to help us. No matter what we tried, nobody would help us because of our immigration status. That was when I realized I was undocumented and, to them, unworthy of justice.

 

People say that because I am not a U.S citizen, I am not from here, I am not American, and that I do not belong. This is the furthest thing from true. My worth is not my immigration status. I have helped my school, my community, and my county because I love it. The U.S has been my home since I was a little girl. I have vague memories of my life in Mexico, but nothing concrete. I fell in love with the idea of the American Dream, and view myself as an American. I participated in JROTC and learned about the armed forces and how this country is unique and free. I stand with pride reciting the Pledge of Allegiance because I believe in every word of it. I am part of this nation, and I consider it my home. I grew up here and believe in the values of what the U.S represents.

 

The uncertainty of whether or not I will be deported is overwhelming, but I want to tell all the other young immigrants to never give up. Only those who fight against the injustice will reach the end. Don’t ever be afraid to speak up, we must rise as one and show them we are here, and we are here to stay. Let’s demand a seat at the table. We will unite and make our dreams become a reality. Por mi mamá¡, I will be the best I can be and reach high places.

TheDream.US National Scholarship Applications are still open. The deadline to apply is Feb 29, 2024.

Learn More