Featured in this post are the experiences of East Harlem residents Sonia and Sergio at the National Graduation Day Ceremony. Sonia writes eloquently of her devastation as an ambitious high school senior confronted with her undocumented status, hitting the issue from a personal angle; while Sergio emphasizes the importance of political engagement and reveals the symbolic importance of the June 23 event: An event at which undocumented students speak and fight directly for their rights to pursue higher education.
These two stories' publication here is made possible by Marisol Ramos of the New York State Youth Leadership Council, and East Harlem Against Deportation's own Ingrid Sotelo, who was in D.C. on June 23 to witness the event. Click on the title of the stories for the full version of Sonia and Sergio's accounts on the NYSYLC website.
I took my education very seriously. As a high school student, I took AP courses, got involved in extra curricular activities, ran and got elected in student government and graduated I was in the top of my graduation class. Yet as the date got closer, I stopped looking forward to it.
It was bittersweet; I would be the first in my family to graduate from college, yet the chance of attending college became slim. Because of my immigration status, my grades, resume, SAT scores where all out the window. It didn’t matter, all that mattered was those 9 digits numbers I lacked.
I remember sitting in my college advising room helping my fellow classmates fill out their college applications and FAFSA papers while hearing my college adviser telling me that, “College is not an option for you.”
I share with you this story because it is a common story. Youth around the nation pursue an education, they have goals and dreams and yet because of their immigration status they are prohibited from even getting close to it. Every year 65,000 undocumented students graduate from high school. Because of their status, they are denied state and federal grants and scholarships. But with the Dream Act, these students will have an opportunity to pursue their education and dreams.
I still have my dreams of becoming a lawyer or a politician someday.
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June 23 was a very memorable day for me as I witnessed immigrant youth standing up and willing to fight for the Dream Act. There were many students from around the country who united for one cause: To ask their congressmen to co-sponsor the Dream Act in 2009. Having students from all over the country uniting for this cause showed the sense of urgency that undocumented students cannot wait any longer.
The dreams of undocumented students are being put on hold and politicians must understand that that these very talented minds are going to waste. After undocumented students graduate from college, they are trapped with dead end jobs and that is something we cannot allow. When we see so many students coming out to speak with congressmen, it means something is wrong and they must address the issue as soon as possible.
The National Dream Act graduation magnified the problem that there are thousands of students who are in the same situation. I learned that when you want something you must go out there and get it. As my Public Administration professor William Allen said, “You must be Aggressive in your Education! You must get Active and Demand for a Change.”