William

William is a senior at Beacon High School. He's planning to attend City College.

William is a senior at Beacon High School. He's planning to attend City College.

"Dear William,

Thank you for your email. I took some time to respond because I wanted to meet with the Admission Committee and Financial Aid Committee regarding your admission. It is with a heavy heart that I have to give you disappointing news. The Director of Admission and the Admission Committee have notified me that _____High School will not be able to offer admission to an undocumented immigrant. [The] Director of Financial Aid, and the Financial Aid Committee have stated the same."

When I first read this email and saw those words, undocumented immigrant, my heart shook. I cried so much that I began to question my potential and self-worth. Never once, since my arrival to the States at age 8, did I ever realize that my status would be a barrier in my education. Yet when reading this email, I tried to convince myself that maybe I wasn’t meant to go to the ___ School. Maybe the mentioning of my status was just an excuse. Maybe my grades were not high enough, maybe I wasn’t involved in enough extracurriculars, or maybe I, a public school student from The Bronx wouldn’t fit in at an institution of prestige and access. These were the things I told myself to convince myself that the school’s rejection was my fault. I convinced myself that if my legal status was really the reason I was rejected this time, I would never allow it to happen again when I go to college. 

I ended up in a public high school 11 miles away from my home in the northeastern Bronx. The long commute was worth it because my high school offered so much more than my zoned school. With a 52% graduation rate and only 1 in 4 students going to college, my zoned school did not promise the academic wealth I saw in my American Dream. So, even though I may not have attended the prestigious __ High School, I have still made the most out of my high school experience by working hard and holding tight to my dreams in a school full of rigor and academic enrichment.

Growing up undocumented in New York City, it is easy to blend in despite the challenges of social assimilation. I will always remember my first semester in America. My English was rudimentary and I was years behind my peers. Since little help could be found at home, I searched for knowledge in a public library, my haven for learning. I spent endless hours in library aisles reading books on American history, English poetry, Life science, and practicing proper pronunciation and grammar. As I improved on my academics, I also felt a small imaginary equality with American students, with whom Iparticipated in the same lessons, discussions, and field trips. Now, with college decisions at the door, I have realized I can no longer blend in.

I have hidden my legal status for 11 years. For 11 years I have lived in the shadows and let me tell you something: it hurts. It hurts when you hear your friends telling you about their summers in the countries of their heritage, visiting family, and making wonderful memories. All you can do is listen and hide your sadness behind forged smiles because you haven’t been able to visit your family for a long time. It hurts when you see your friends study abroad or attend enrichment programs in other countries, and you can’t because you lack the blue American passport. It hurts when your 96 year old great-grandmother dies an ocean away and you can’t even attend her funeral or bring flowers to her grave. It hurts.

Yet it hurts even more when a school denies you admission because you lack legal standing in the country of freedom and optimistic dreams. It hurts when you apply to more than 20 private colleges that you are more than qualified to attend and get a pile of rejections, few waitlists, and no acceptances. When this happens, you feel as though the plethora of opportunities you imagined when you first moved to the country have dissolved. You feel as if all your hard work has been torn to pieces.

Even though I am constantly told that it has nothing to do with me as a person or student, I feel powerless and completely vulnerable. And after crying for weeks, I have decided to let my story to be heard, because it is stories like mine that burden many undocumented students in the United States of America.

Only 5 to 10 percent of undocumented students in the United States go to college. By having outside support from my community, I have been privileged to receive preparation for college. Yet I do not speak on behalf of all undocumented students as each and everyone of us has different experiences. I urge and dream for the communities across this city and this country to be more supportive of undocumented students; to provide necessary counseling services and resources for applying to college. To help undocumented students deal with bullying due to their legal status and being attacked by ignorant stereotypes. Many of us have dreams of bringing change to our families and the communities we left behind. Many of us need love and emotional support in a situation where those in the highest elected offices abhor our presence in this land of freedom and opportunities.

To those who have listened to my story I thank you with all my heart. To those of you who know me, I apologize for hiding my true self, I hope you can understand. To those who feel the same way I do, do not allow rejection to undermine your potential. We can only continue to work hard and make ourselves heard so that change can be made. Thank you.