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2012 graduate of Hall High, hoping to start college this summer
It was pretty difficult for me seeing all my friends going to college and not being able to go because of the expense. We came into this country from Mexico when I was in the third grade. We lived with fear on a daily basis. We didn't want to get stopped, because of course they're going to ask for a driver's license, and what are we going to say? We don't have one. They're going to start questioning you. It's difficult to live. It's like they say: We live in shadows. We have to hide who we are all the time.
I did all my elementary, middle school and high school here in Arkansas as an undocumented alien, and graduated from Hall High School last year. I worked all through high school, because I never thought I would graduate. I didn't see the point of it. My first two years of high school was mostly working. I missed a lot of school. But then, during my junior year, my mind changed a lot. We all grow up, and I realized that even if it wasn't time for me then, that didn't mean my time was never going to come. So I focused in school and dropped hours from my job. I started volunteering. I'm really happy with all I've done.
I always knew that my status here in the country was unlawful, but when you're a kid, it doesn't really affect you as much. You just leave it up to your parents. But when you get to the age of 14 or 15, and you want to start buying your own stuff, or you might want to get a job, or you see your friends at 16 getting their driver's licenses, and you realize it's something you can't have. It's really frustrating in your senior year to have the counselor calling all your friends, asking them which college they want to go to. And then you come in and they ask for your Social Security number, and they tell you they can't help you when you say you don't have one. You're like: What did I do to deserve this? I didn't do anything. I have studied as much as they have. I'm going to graduate the same way they did.
I have so many friends who not only thought about dropping out, they actually did. They didn't see a point in going to school. Now that we have Deferred Action, it was a big disappointment for them knowing that they didn't qualify for that anymore. Most of them went back to school, and if they were over 21, they had to go for their GED. It brought a lot of people back to get their education, and that's a good thing.
When the Deferred Action came, I applied for it, and luckily I got accepted this past December. It has helped me a lot to improve my life. Of course it helps to get a job and open doors for yourself, but it mentally and emotionally helps you as well, because you don't have to live in shadows anymore.
Right now, I'm really hoping that the bill giving us in-state tuition will pass. It's absolutely ridiculous for us to pay more money than other kids — kids who have taken the same classes in school, kids who maybe didn't even do as well in class as we did. It's really frustrating to have to pay for something that we didn't ask for, which was to come to this country. I'm hoping to start college in August, but my goals right now are to keep fighting for this campaign, and get the law passed here in Arkansas so we can have in-state tuition. I think this will help so many more students have the will to graduate from high school. That's why a lot of Latinos drop out. They think: What's the point of me graduating from high school if I'm never going to be able to have a good job or go to college? This will help. Kids who are about to graduate will be able to look toward the future and not just feel like they're stuck in a place where they can't move forward.
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