Guest Blog by Tony Pardo What do I breathe that others don’t? What does my heart pump that doesn’t run in the veins of others? What is my flesh made of that makes it illegal and almost inferior to the “citizens” of this country? Until this day, I have not discovered any biological explanations that justify the social displacement that I encounter in every day society. At the age of four years, I left the country that gave me a nationality, a language and a home. Not knowing what our positions in life would look like, my parents had no option but to make their American dream in a car garage, which came to be our new home. As if risking their lives was not enough to provide me with a better future, my parents’ long days of intense labor acted as second catalyst in emphasizing the importance of pursuing a higher education. In spring of 2006, I was accepted to one of the most competitive institutions in the western United States, the University of California, Los Angeles. Pursuing an educational career as an undocumented student in higher education was like jumping from a diving board into a pool without knowing if water was present. Coming in as a freshman, I did not know whether I was going to be able accomplish the dream that I had been working towards since I first stepped into this country. Tuition was expensive. I did not have access to any type of job; the scholarships that I might otherwise have received were inaccessible to me because I did not have a 9 digit number. Moreover, the $36,000 a year that my parents make cumulatively was insufficient to support a family of six and pay for the education of their first college graduate. Since the resources were few, I had to look for private scholarships that did not require a Social Security number and people who were willing to provide a listening ear and sometimes food and shelter. Though sleeping on the floor, not having enough food for the week and working extensively to pay for tuition was emotionally painful, having to leave the college campus without a Bachelor’s degree would have destroyed the only part of my identity that has not been defined by laws and societal standards. Therefore, the pain that I have endured has served as a self-realization factor that has made me aware of the need for educational policy that would (1) eradicate laws which create a glass ceiling to the achievement level of children in schools and (2) provide a pathway for postsecondary educational success for marginalized communities. Pursuing a double major in Political Science and Chicana/o Studies with an emphasis on Education Studies Minor, I was able to link both my circumstance and my educational background as a resource to reframe policy and curriculum in education. During my 3 years of undergraduate schooling at UCLA, I directed two mentoring/tutoring programs, one of which I helped establish at a local middle school. As a director, tutor and research analyst, I was able to contrive a curriculum that supplemented the students learning abilities as oppose to imposing one that did not have any association to the student’s character, social circumstance, or academic potentials. Moreover, by tutoring and mentoring students from grades K-9 twice a week for a period of three years, I was able to critically synthesize the disadvantages that are imposed by our educational system. This service and my research helped me discover my passion for educational policymaking and the need to reconstruct societal frameworks that obstruct people from learning and achieving at their highest potential. In spring of this current year, I was accepted to Columbia University’s Masters program in Education Policy. Yet, because of my immigration status it is almost impossible to pursue this dream, since I don’t have the resources to finance my education. Despite my vision for a better America and more than seventeen years of living in this country, I have not been given the opportunity to become fully integrated as a citizen of this country. As a result, I cannot fully take use of the resources that would enable me to strengthen the educational systems that are hindering the potential of America’s respective leaders. Hence, it is of great significance that you vocalize the voice that many of us don’t have to advocate for Immigration Reform and the federal DREAM Act. The more time that we wait for this change to occur, the more damaged that is being done to the future of this country. Meanwhile, I will continue to hope and pray for a better tomorrow….a tomorrow that does not obstruct my liberties as a human or imprison me like a criminal. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11)
Tagged with: Columbia University • DREAM ACT • UCLA • undocumented students
I so admire the diligence the author of this article has displayed in making sacrifices to achieve his goal of an undergraduate degree. He mentions that he is not able to pursue his dream of continuing education (referencing a Master’s program) due to a lack of financial resources…”despite his vision for a better America and more than seventeen years of living in this country.” I do take issue with his rationale. He implies that hard work and a desire to better America should ensure one the opportunity to attend graduate school. The article goes on to state that the author cannot “fully take use of the resources that would enable him to strengthen the educational systems that are hindering the potential of America’s respective leader.” Does this young man realize that thousands who are native-born in America also are unable to attend graduate school because of finances? Thousands are unable to attend university because of financial constraints. One should not equate “being fully integrated as a citizen of America” with the idea that a young person with honorable goals and a strong work ethic deserves a graduate degree.I wish our country could provide this, but it cannot. I am speaking as one who, like the author, is part of a family that has made many sacrifices for education, and has been restricted by financial resources. One’s impact is not determined by the completion of a master’s program. And please, do not assume that the American dream (which, as a Christian, is NOT our goal) guarantees its citizens a postsecondary educational experience. I support many aspects of Immigration Reform, but am disappointed when you tag a Bible verse (Jer.29) on comments which communicate that a lack of resources for graduate school “obstruct one’s liberties as a human or imprison one as a criminal.” In my opinion, this article displays poorly-integrated Christian thought.