Cristina C. – 23, Ontario, CA, Born in Chiapas, Mexico

Since my parents had already settled in the U.S., I lived with my aunt for two years until they were able to send for me and make arrangements for my border crossing – alone.

Not quite 12, I found a way through, not the first time, but on the second try. It was scary but rejoining my parents was all that mattered. My brother followed a few months later. Finally, the family was together. Now we all live together.

Many of my classmates at school had similar backgrounds so we shared our experiences as we learned English and concentrated on getting an education. By the time I got to high school, I realized that I wouldn’t qualify for university tuition assistance so I got a job in a fast-food restaurant and attended a community college. I was able to manage three classes at a time while continuing to work. It took me four years before I was able to transfer to a four-year university. By that time, financial aid for undocumented students was available, thanks to the California Dream Act. Now at Cal State San Bernardino, I’m working on a double major, a B.A. in Spanish and English literature, and hope to graduate in 2017. I don’t plan to stop there. My goal is a master’s in Spanish and a job teaching at a community college.

I qualified for DACA and was able to find a better job, something that relates to my career, tutoring Spanish and ESL students. With a scholarship from TheDream.US, I’m able to pay for tuition, books and transportation.

I will be the first in my family to attend college and receive a degree. Without the California Dream Act and DACA, I’m not sure how I would have overcome all the obstacles of being undocumented. I was able to get help with my education while working legally. Having a driver’s license was a lifesaver since my school was 30 miles away from home.

It still took hard work and a long time, but I didn’t give up. I intend to be a role model on how to persevere. I want to be a teacher and help others acquire the knowledge they need to succeed. Over the years, my own teachers and my diverse group of friends have encouraged me. Of course, my family has been my rock, especially my mom. Even my old-fashioned dad has come around to believe that I should get my education, that women must be as well prepared as men in this competitive world. I wanted to prove to my family that I could achieve the dreams they had for me when they left their home behind. I especially want to inspire young girls to dream big.