Fernando R (aka Clavillaso). – 29, Lynwood, CA, Born in Mexico

Only 13, I felt I had to leave home and find work in the U.S. to help my family. After a terrible accident, my mom totally debilitated. My father was a carpenter who didn’t earn much money.  My oldest sister seemed to take it on herself to take care of me, but I needed to take care of myself and my family.

Flying alone to Tijuana, I thought about all that could happen on a desert border crossing with a coyote. It was a desperate move but I was desperate. It was 2001 and I was a junior-high student leaving behind everything I knew for a very dangerous and uncertain future.

I made it to the States and briefly stayed with an aunt. I enrolled in school and started working. It was what I’d always done in Mexico City – selling water on the street, cleaning buses, whatever I could find. Here I worked at McDonald’s and finally earned enough to send for my mother, father and older sister. My brothers are still in Mexico so our family is not together, which is hard on all of us.

For much of my life, it was humiliation after humiliation but now I’m a successful DJ, a voice for my community. I applied for DACA graduating from high school. It changed my life – giving me a future without constant fear of being deported.

With my new work permit through DACA, I could find better employment – dock worker and cook. When I became a door-to-door sales rep for Royal Prestige cookware, I managed to outsell most of my colleagues. One day, I just happened to knock on the door of a sales manager for La Curacao. She was so impressed by my presentation that she hired me. Working three hours a day, I doubled my sales goal and outperformed the top sales reps, becoming the sales leader for the San Bernardino location.

I was on my way to work one day when I heard a commercial for a DJ academy. This was my calling. I just knew it, so I enrolled in Santa Ana at the 93.7 radio station. Of the 20 enrolled, I was the only one to finish the course. After graduating, I interned at Grupo Radio Centro under Burbujas. As I earned his trust, I started framing my own persona, Clavillaso. My internship led to employment while being mentored by my boss, el Mandril. For the next six years, I gained experience in sales, promotions and production until I felt I had the tools to be a real DJ. I was given one opportunity, a two-hour show on Saturday mornings. My boss said if I got a good response from listeners, I could keep broadcasting. The rest is history. I attracted a large loyal following and was given an evening show. I have become successful at something I love. DACA made all this possible.

I now have a family of my own – two children. I still dream of citizenship and work with immigration rights organizations like CHIRLA and HERMANDAD Mexicana. I also support the activist efforts of my co-worker, another Dreamer. I want to encourage the millions like me — who struggle to survive — to hold onto their dreams. We must be united and determined. Never has a Dreamer been the #1 DJ is his city until I finally made it happen. I want all the Undocumented to have a chance to realize their own dreams.