My name is Patricia and I.M. Beyond Borders. I am also a Latina, in the STEM field, and DACAmented. After being denied federal, state, and even sometimes institutional aid in the state I’ve lived in for 17 years, I quickly realized fear wouldn’t get me anywhere. My parent’s framework of hard work and determination gave me strength. I instead found programs that believed my success was independent of where I came from: I received a university merit-based scholarship and the JKC scholarship that grants up to $160,000 for my undergrad-- essentially a full ride. In the future, I want to attend graduate school and specialize in either software development or cybersecurity-- one day being able to serve and protect the country that has given me so much. Yes, there is a part of me is still afraid, still worried, that I may be forced to leave the country I’ve called home for all my life. However, no matter how many walls are built and how many times I’m knocked down, no one is going to take my determination away from me. Check out my story on how I converted fear into strength and am holding on stronger than ever.
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Read Patricia's DACAmented Story:
“I love this country even though at times it doesn’t love me back.”
I’m not ashamed to admit that I cried when I read this quote from the ABC show, Blackish, because it succinctly conveyed all the anxiety and heaviness I have felt for countless years in my life-- more so since November 8th. That evening, I remember I couldn’t stand watching the election results come through my laptop screen as I was in my dorm room alone. Instead, I went home to the comfort of my family as we watched our fates be decided that night. I also remember going to bed anxious, not staying to watch the final polls since I had class early the next day. When I woke up, I immediately checked my phone and felt a cold wash of disappointment and grief upon seeing our new president-elect. Even more vividly, I remember the tears welling in my eyes as I swallowed the plethora of potential consequences of what this could mean for me and my family. It felt as if I had woken up in a completely different world-- one where I no longer felt safe or confident in my future.
While these feelings weren't new, they had become dormant during the past three years. Since receiving my DACA documentation in 2013, I saw my life and new opportunities open up exponentially. The way I saw it, President Obama had given me a reason to fight for my future, to work harder and smarter, and to achieve a life-long dream of mine: graduating from a four-year university as a first-generation student.
My parents brought me from Mexico to the United States when I was a year and a half old. I figuratively and literally took my first steps in the U.S. For all intents and purposes, the United States is the only home I have ever known. Both of my parents worked tirelessly to provide a stable and comfortable life for my older brother and I. From an early age, they instilled in us that our strongest chance of creating a better future for ourselves was working hard and excelling academically. Neither of my parents attended high school, much less college, but they were determined to see us graduate from high school and attend a four-year university as the students they never could be. Aware of the countless sacrifices they have made to see me succeed, I took it upon myself to honor those sacrifices by going above and beyond what I could ever imagine in my academic career.
This dedication lasted all through elementary, middle, and high school. Suddenly, I reached senior year-- the cusp of my long-awaited goal. Nonetheless, I was faced with the detail of figuring out how I would be able to pay for my higher education. As a DACAmented student in North Carolina, I don’t have access to federal or state aid. I am required to pay out-of-state tuition regardless of the 17 years I’ve permanently lived in North Carolina. It was also heartbreaking to find out that some universities were also not able to offer me institutional aid. With my brother already in college receiving financial support from my parents, I didn't want to add another source of worry to our already-strained financial situation. Yet, I didn't want to give up on attending a four-year university. I decided to take matters into my own hands and fight for my dream. With this newfound determination, I burrowed down, filling out countless scholarship applications while continuing to work even harder in school. Fast forward to high school graduation: I graduated as what most high school systems would call valedictorian. My hunger for success granted me the privilege of delivering the final speech at our graduation ceremony. That day, I was able to share with my peers my favorite Spanish saying: “Si se puede”-- three words that have continuously inspired me to work hard and believe that a better future is possible.
In regards to my financial worries, 2016 also granted me one of the greatest blessings I have received thus far in my life, second only to deservingly obtain my DACA documentation. In April, I received a call informing me I had been selected as a College Scholar by the Jack Kent Cooke (JKC) Foundation . I remember thinking to myself, “I will actually be able to attend a four-year university,” which is something I couldn’t say for certain until that very moment. As a JKC scholar, I’m eligible for up to $40,000 in scholarship aid for each of my four years of undergraduate study. Not to mention, I have access to invaluable mentoring and counseling from the staff and other scholars. Being accepted into the ‘Cooke family’ and getting a surplus of support and encouragement gave me a new sense of resilience and empowerment. For the first time in my life, I felt truly accepted and I loved connecting with other DACAmented scholars who shared a similar journey as mine. Seeing their faith in humanity and their determination to fight for their futures helped me fully embrace and feel proud of my DACA status. I realized that my background didn't have to be a hinderance or an embarrassment, but an inspiration to believe in myself and in the accomplishments I had earned and would continue to earn.
As for my college dream, I am proud to say I’ve checked it off of my bucket list. I am currently a freshman at Lenoir-Rhyne University in Hickory, North Carolina as a computer science major with a sociology minor. I had the immense honor of being awarded the LR Lineberger Scholarship, which covers three-quarters of my tuition and fees. Coupled with my Cooke Scholarship, I’m fulfilling this dream with a full-ride! If federal and state aid didn’t support me, I had to find other sources that believed in me right? To this day, this fact boggles my mind because just a year prior I was convinced that the only way path to a four-year university would be through countless student loans and multiple part-time jobs. I now have the ability to focus on my studies and become involved within my community. I can use my experiences to raise awareness of the issues DACAmented students face and to advocate STEM fields for Hispanic scholars. As a Latina within the STEM field, I am proud to push against the stereotypes that tend to inhabit Latinos and females in these areas. I find strength in knowing that while I may be criticized for my decisions and background now, I am helping pave the way for future generations of Hispanic students to pursue their dreams without fear or hindrance, regardless of nationality.
Upon graduation from Lenoir-Rhyne, I hope to attend graduate school and specialize in either software development or cybersecurity-- one day being able to serve and protect the country that has given me so much. I know the journey will not be easy. I know that greater obstacles will come across my path just as they always have in the past. Regardless, the experiences I have had throughout my life have demonstrated to me that hope, passion, and determination can help me achieve any goal I set for myself.
Of course, a part of me is still afraid, still worried, that I may be forced to leave the country that has been my home for almost 17 years. I am afraid to leave behind my dreams and aspirations, to leave behind the people who have stood alongside me throughout my life. But slowly, I've learned to convert some of that fear into strength to defend myself and the accomplishments of my fellow DACAmented students and immigrant community. I know that one day, I will be able to proudly salute the American flag as a United States citizen. One day, I will be able to cast my own vote and potentially elect our first Hispanic president. One day, I will be able to return to Mexico and finally meet the family I have only seen in photographs and heard through a telephone. But until that day comes, I plan to wake up each day with a renewed sense of hope and resolution to fight alongside my community for a brighter future. And no matter how many walls are built and how many times I’m knocked down, no one is able going to take that determination away from me.