I noticed you’re really good with listening to people who need to
vent, and well I really need someone to talk to right now…
My name is Catalina and I am a Dreamer currently in my second year of college. I had a terrible day in school because they were not letting me register for next semester. This is because I have a balance pending. I told them that I will pay is just that I need time to do it… And that is when they started asking me about taking out loans…I told them I could not. They just kept on pushing until I finally told them I couldn’t because I am undocumented.
Then it all changed. These people started going on and on about how bad they felt for me. They said they were sorry because I was wasting my time going to school, knowing that my diploma was going to be worthless after I graduated. This just got me very upset and even know I did not do it in front of them, I just cried, because I feel there is some truth to this.
What is the point of me trying so hard to make it through college when my diploma is not even going to be worth it?
I am just terribly upset. Thank you,
Thank you for finding the time to email me on this very important issue especially during graduation time i’m sure a lot of other students have the same question.
I’m so sorry to hear that you’re having a difficult time in school and with its administrators. I’m always hearing about undocumented students being hassled by school staff. I’ve had a very similar experience to yours. During my registration time at the college I’m attending the financial aid administrator told me I was wasting her time as well as mine. She stated that if I didn’t have the cash to pay for my tuition then there was no point in trying to go to college. I felt discouraged and her words made me feel like crap. The administrator was nasty and rude; she offered no help, no guidance and at some point I started to believe what she had said. I sat at a nearby park and cried till I was dried up inside. Of course, we look up to administration and believe that they’re there to help us and provide us with the right answers. That isn’t always true and I learned it the hard way. Many times we have to find the solutions on our own.
I want you to remember why you decided to go to college in the first place. Was this your parents dreams for you? Did they leave their country for you to have a better education and a better life? Did you decide to go to school on your own? What were the first main goals that drove you into college? Every time you feel like giving up and throwing it all away, remember them. If it was your parents, remember the joy they felt when you were accepted. They always seem to find ways to help us with school payments and even put their expenses on hold for our education. In the moment you might feel like your diploma is not worth anything, but we both know that isn’t true, or it wouldn’t have made you cry. A diploma that is easily gained is the one that doesn’t mean anything. When one has to put sweat, tears and blood into a piece of paper, it becomes valuable in ways words can’t describe. It isn’t just a piece of paper, it’s proof. Proof that you and your family made that dream come true despite all the obstacles, all the times someone told you you couldn’t make it and despite all your fears of the future.
I also had trouble registering one semester and had to take time off from school while I saved up money for the next semester. The school administration didn’t care if I went or not. They didn’t bother asking me If I needed academic advisement, all I got was a letter in the mail asking why I took the semester off. I filled it in with red ink and capitals letters. “I AM UNDOCUMENTED AND RECEIVE NO FINANCIAL AID. I COULD NOT AFFORD THIS SEMESTER” but of course, they didn’t reply. Why would they care? They just want my money. My hard-earned-had-to-sacrifice-things-that-I-want money.
If there’s something that I learned during that time off is that the undocumented road to college is a difficult one. Many times we stay in school longer than expected because we are behind on credits and a 2 year degree turns into 5, a 4 year degree turns into 10. Nobody has ever told me it was going to be easy and I understand that now. Also, it’s okay if there ever comes a time when we can’t be labeled ‘student’. There is nothing to be ashamed of or embarrassed about if you can’t be in school sometimes. Not being in school does not make you any less important or worthy. There are plenty of deserving youth who are not in school and they’re equal to someone who is in school.
Don’t let the comments and remarks get to you; instead, find ways around them and even teach them on how to talk to students. You can spend this time saving money, being involved, tutoring or sleeping in, etc. Remember, you are not the only undocumented student in that campus. Who knows how many more students have been hurt from a staff’s remarks and they have no one to turn to. Consider organizing a club on campus to provide that space for others.
I know that many times we don’t consider ourselves American, or from our native land, so we use school as an escape and call ourselves students. But it isn’t always going to be that way. You are still an amazing person and you won’t lose yourself or your identity if you are not in school. College, and its staff, do not define you; you define your college years. It’s up to every single one of us to educate the staff and students in our high schools and colleges about this issue.
P.S. We even have a cliq of undocumented youth who are not in school, have to take time off, take less classes, graduate later than usual or even work on the side…. so don’t feel alone, we’re all right next to you. <3
Email any questions, concerns, comments or just your own story. This is a space to let it all out! You don’t have bottled it up inside. Whatever you write is up to you and you will not be judged. Your stories and worries matter! You are not alone. Remember, the insecurities and fears you have, someone else is them having too! Don’t be afraid to speak out!
If you are a fan of the Ask Angy posts..
The views expressed by the author on this post do not necessarily reflect the views of the New York State Youth Leadership Council (NYSYLC)