Dreaming like there are no borders

College was not something that I ever thought could be possible. I came to this country with my mom when I was only seven months old. My biological father left my mom when he found out she was pregnant and never showed any support. The first three years of my life were difficult, there were times that I wouldn’t see my mom because she worked two jobs in order for her to provide for me. She then met my dad (the man who has really taken on the role of being my dad) and things got easier for both of us. I had someone who I could count on when my mom had to work and who could provide emotional support for both of us.

Growing up I never really understood what it meant not to have ‘legal status.’ I always knew that I was born in Mexico and that if anyone ever asked me questions I should not answer them. When high school came around and I started seeing that you needed a social security and proof of legal residence to apply for scholarships, financial aid and when you applied for school, I came to a realization that I might never be able to go any further than a high school diploma.

It was really disappointing for me because my mom had brought me to this country to better myself and for me to have an education. There was a time when I thought that everything that my parents had sacrificed for was not worth anything. So, during my sophomore year of high school, I really did not care about my education. I hardly went to school and failed three courses. Luckily for me, someone came into my life who gave me a whole different prospective on viewing things. I was assigned a mentor from UC Santa Cruz, she would come into my geometry class once a week and made sure that I was doing my work. She noticed that I was not into it at all and that I had zero motivation. One day she invited me to the campus after listening to our teacher tell us that in college we do not receive any help and it was just going to be double the work.

On our way to campus I explained to her why I thought college was not going to be for me and all she did was listen. The next day, we went to all her classes and I was surprised that her math class was about 200 students. She told me that when she didn’t understand something in class, she could get help at the campus. At the end of the day I was really excited knowing that I could also be living on campus, making new friends and getting a whole new experience. She then told me, “You are a smart young lady and you should never give up. Keep going forward and do not look back. I know that you will make it. I believe in you.” I came to realize that just because I did not have ‘legal status’ did not mean that I could not get the same experience as everyone else. I wanted to prove to everyone, especially myself, that I was able to accomplish my dreams even if it was going to be ten times more difficult.

My last two years of high school were really difficult. I took all the classes that I needed to take and during the summer I took a biology class through a local college in order for me to get the credits that I had missed during my sophomore year. June 8th, 2012 came around and I had finally done it. I was able to graduate in the top 10 of my class and I was on my way to Sierra College. It was a very emotional day because I was the first in my family to graduate from high school and go to college. I remember seeing my parents cry because of how proud they were of me for never giving up.

During my four years of community college experience I started at Sierra College in Rocklin, CA, and then transferred to Hartnell College in Salinas, CA, and finally stayed in Monterey Peninsula College (MPC), in Monterey, CA. My dream was to go to school in the valley but things did not work out because it was hard for me to get a job. Then, I moved to Salinas with family members but it also did not work out for me. I decided to transfer to MPC because they offered many courses online and since I had moved back to Pescadero it was going to be easier for me. I did not want to transfer schools anymore and I really enjoyed going to a campus where I knew nobody and could meet new people, so I decided to make MPC my experience. In the spring of 2015, I meet with my counselor because I knew I would be ready to transfer to a four-year university. She explained to me that I also had the chance to graduate from MPC in spring of 2016 and I started crying.

I went with the intention to get guidance for me to transfer, and I came away with the knowledge that I was able to get my AA first. It was really emotional. I left her office and I called my mom and told her the news. I was the first one to going to college and now I would be getting an AA. I told her, “Mom, this is for you and all the sacrifices that you had to do in order for me to have this opportunity.”

Graduation came faster than I expected. Being in line, waiting for the moment where I was going to be walking across the stadium was nerve-racking. All I could think about was my parents, my siblings and all my friends who had come to support me. I thought about how only four years ago on a day like this I had graduated high school and now moments away I was going to graduate from community college on my way to a four-year university. I might not have gotten straight A’s but I was proud that a Latina woman who started from the bottom and overcame every obstacle that was put in her way was here.

Laura, center, with her brother Ivan and sister Abby.

Laura, center, with her brother Ivan and sister Abby.

When my name was read and I walked down to get my degree, I turned around and looked at my family; I was there because of them. I wanted my siblings to see that if I was able to accomplish this that they can accomplish anything they set their minds too. It was a really emotional day for my whole family. we cried and laughed. I dedicated my accomplishment to my parents and my siblings because they will always be my motivation. Getting an education involves dedication, sacrifice and commitment. I did not let my circumstance determine who I was or am going to become and I want my parents to see that their dedication, sacrifice, commitment and support was worth more than anything. We should always aim high, get up when we fall and dream like there are no borders.

Laura will attend California State University Monterey Bay in the fall, majoring in Pre-Law.

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