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I really love school. When we had vacations, I'd wish they'd hurry up and go faster. I always wanted the time away from school to be over, and I made good grades. In the 10th grade, all these colleges started sending me invitations to come tour their campus. My parents were really excited about it. I took tours with my friends, but then I talked to the counselor and she didn't really know how to help me. She said, "I don't even think you can go to college." I got really down my junior year and I thought about dropping out. There were a lot of my friends who dropped out. They were like: "I'd rather work than keep studying, because there's no point." But I didn't quit.
By the end of my senior year, everybody was talking about the DREAM Act, and my parents said: "You really need to work hard in your studies so that when the time comes, you can prove you are an asset to the community." I graduated with honors, and was salutatorian of my class.
I applied to all of the public universities in Arkansas. I got accepted to all of them, but I couldn't get scholarships. I came in one day and told my parents that I didn't think I'd be able to go. They said: "Just take as many classes as you want. We'll work." My Dad said: "If you have the brains, we'll get the money."
Education for my parents was the most important thing. They said that's what's going to distinguish you from everybody else. Since then, I've been going to school full time every semester. I'm majoring in pre-med biology, and I want to be a doctor someday. My parents work 12 hours a day, seven days a week. They go in at 6 in the morning and come home at 7 at night. They have to drive an hour away. I have a younger sister who is 14, and I feel like it's taking them away from her. She doesn't really see my parents that much, because as soon as they get home, they eat and then go to sleep. They've paid $10,000 dollars each semester.
The beginning of my sophomore year, my mom was diagnosed with cervical cancer. That was a breaking point for me. I felt like I needed to work because she needed surgery to remove the cancer, and we didn't have the money for it. I just wanted to work so she could get better, but she wouldn't let me. Our community came together to raise most of the money she needed. She had the surgery in December. She was supposed to have bed rest for a month. She only stayed a week. She said: "I can't stay in bed. You need the money for school." She went back to work. My mom is my role model.
The DREAM Act is not only going to benefit me, it's going to benefit millions of students who have worked hard and who want to do something for themselves and their families, and who want to give back to the community they've grown up to love and make their home. I'm very hopeful something will change.
People think we're all criminals coming to do bad in this country. That's not the case. I've had people ask me: "Why don't you just go back to your country?" I say: "What country? I was raised here." This is my country. This is my home. In school, I pledged allegiance to the American flag. I may not have been an American citizen, but in my heart I know I'm an American.
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