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leaky pipe:

disconnection in the education system

youth stories

ana, 20, metro region

I grew up undocumented in a time before DACA [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals]. My high school friends were getting their first jobs while I was disconnected from the workforce because I couldn’t get employed legally. Since I couldn’t work, a lot of my time was spent in school. It was difficult because the school system is not educated on what immigrants go through.

In my junior year of high school, I was bullied to the point that I left. I felt I couldn’t reach out to anybody. There was such a disconnection between myself and the staff that I didn’t feel comfortable talking about the problems I was having at school and at home. A friend told me about a smaller high school she was attending and I decided to move to a smaller high school downtown called Garfield. This school focused on young parents and people involved in foster care or the juvenile detention system. They really seemed to care about their students. I was enrolled into independent studies, but realized it wasn’t for me. I ended up downstairs at the regular high school and fell in love with everything.

I had a good counselor who went out of his way to learn about the DACA and about the struggles immigrants go through and how fear prevents many from seeking help. He always kept me in line and believed in me. His belief in me strengthened my confidence in myself and enabled me to come out of my bubble. His initiative in wanting to care made me want to do the same for other people. Now I’m becoming more of an advocate for my community. I feel my passion for public policy was because of him.

Price Scholars I could definitely say was a life changer. When I joined, I was welcomed in with open arms. It was like having a home away from home. More than the monetary benefits, it was about the experiences and being able to work with the Cesar Chavez Service Clubs and learning about CONNECT2Careers and San Diego Workforce Partnership. I even had the opportunity to go to the White House and to talk about research and a prototype we developed about the disconnection that can happen between sixteen to twenty something year-olds and the workforce. One thing we found was the disconnection between home life and school. You can't help a student by giving them resources from the school if the problem is at home.

 

After two years at community college, I decided to take a semester off. I’ve been working really hard academically and felt myself almost burning out. It was really important for me to get myself back up and enjoy learning rather than seeing it as a job and finding my passion for my education. My family has also been going through some hard times, financially speaking. My father got injured, and he was the breadwinner in our home. Right now, my focus has been on finding a job to help my family. In this political climate though, it has been hard finding a position, especially since I can only provide my DACA. Even though I have documentation to work, they don’t understand what it is and it’s like they get nervous about wanting to hire me. It’s a barrier.

I know I need to work on being more open, but I want to be voice of people who can’t speak out from fear. I want to help out at community events. I really internalized a mentality of, ‘If she can do it, I can do it’. I’m getting ready to transfer to a university. I’ve been looking at San Diego State because my major is urban studies with an emphasis in public policy and San Diego State has one of the best programs for it.

Now, I’m paving a good path for myself and finding what it is that I want.