A College Dream Ends Too Soon?

This piece appeared on

To be honest this piece infuriated me. I cannot fathom a sense of entitlement that is so pervasive that it has now extended to those who have entered this country illegally. Apparently the fact that this young lady received a high school diploma at the expense of this country is not enough; it would seem that she believes she should be entitled to a Berkeley education as well.

You decide for yourself:

A College Dream Ends Too Soon I worked hard to get into Berkeley and I worked even harder when I got there. But when my funds ran out, I had to leave.
In the spring of 2008, I sat at my high-school graduation ceremony, wearing my navy-blue robes, with every stole and honorary pin achievable, looking every bit like the overachiever that I am. My enthusiasm surely made me look like a typical graduate. But my future appeared very different from that of my classmates. I am an undocumented person. Six months after I was born, my family emigrated from Mexico to Los Angeles illegally—with little more than one suitcase but great hopes for the future. My parents wanted to give their two daughters opportunities that weren't available back home.

Still, for most of high school, one opportunity seemed like a farfetched dream. Though I had a great deal of support from many different people, nobody seemed sure how I could navigate the system to gain a college education. Information on all aspects of that process was sketchy, so I was stepping onto an unmarked path. It was difficult to live without any assurance that high school would lead, as it would for most of my classmates, to the next stage. I found solace in my studies. I took seven AP classes to test my abilities as a student and delighted in the fact that I could walk into AP English ready to dissect a Shakespeare play. I played the cello to calm my soul, dreaming of a place where music filled the air. I joined my school's leadership ranks and took pride in my ability to motivate people. And I joined clubs that enabled me to give back to a place I loved, organizing two toy drives and devoting more than 300 hours to community service.

How is her plight any different from a typical American? Most high school graduates will never find their way to college. The truth is that most cannot afford the overpriced tuition either. She should be proud of her accomplishments thus far as she has a diploma that she can be proud of and the best education taxpayers can buy.

Every activity allowed me to cling to some sense of normalcy in a life that was changing. My parents' marriage had begun to crumble, slowly and painfully. I had to learn to stand on my own, to be accountable to myself. School felt safe, and I was fortunate to have a support system in a special program for economically disadvantaged students who hoped to attend college. Every student in the program had a story of hardship, so I no longer felt quite so alone and isolated in my struggle.

I wonder how many of those who shared her hardships were American citizens? I would wager that a significant portion were U.S. citizens. This is my point; she has the same advantages and disadvantages as any American student. She was not denied admission; she simply could not afford the tuition.

I eventually came up with a small list of possible colleges—state schools that I might be able to afford or schools that offered scholarships for undocumented students. That April, I received my acceptance to UC Berkeley, and soon after, a few small scholarships. It was a bittersweet triumph. Though I was qualified to attend the best public university in the nation, I couldn't afford it. My funds barely totaled $5,000, only about one semester's tuition. Still, I wanted to attend my dream school for at least that first semester. So after graduation I hopped on a Greyhound bus with two suitcases and headed to Berkeley.
I found a tiny room near the campus, enrolled in classes, and landed a job selling jewelry in a San Francisco mall. From Friday through Monday, I worked full-time, waking up at 6:30 a.m. to get to work by 9. I couldn't spend the weekends like other students, lazing in the sun or exploring neighborhoods. Still, for two glorious days each week, Tuesday and Thursday, I had classes from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and was taught by some amazing professors. I would run from one class to the next, using my breaks to stop by the library. I slept odd hours, many days finishing homework at the crack of dawn. I was very well organized. Wednesday was the day I took care of business—everything from food shopping to laundry to paying bills.

Surprisingly, I found time to make friends and, perhaps more surprisingly, mostly with political conservatives. They proved to be remarkably open-minded, and I loved their outlandish conversations and unabashed candor. They never questioned my odd hours, nor did I offer to explain. They apparently believed that I was simply another workaholic. Perhaps not so "simply," but I was a workaholic for sure. I had no choice.

Most of us have no choice as well. This story is so common place among American students that it would have never found its way into print if not for the fact that she is an illegal immigrant.

As expected, my funds ran out right after that first semester, forcing me to leave that very special school. I am back home now and attending community college. And I am back on the same taxing schedule—two days of classes and four days of work. My goal is to save some money while finishing up my associate's degree. I still enjoy school, but dream about someday attending Berkeley again.

I simply cannot find an empathetic bone in my body to the plight of this young lady. I was not handed funds for college either. I had to work, support my family and attend community college in my spare time. It has taken the better part of 14 years to scrounge the money and time to complete three quarters of an associate’s degree. I am still struggling to find the time and money to complete that degree. I am not complaining; it is what it is.

This immigrant benefitted from out educational system and did in fact complete a high school degree at the expense of this country. I do not hold anything against her for that but no one is guaranteed a college education, much less one at Berkeley. I would love nothing more than to attend MIT, but I do not have the money so I have to settle for what I can afford. Being an illegal immigrant should not garner her any special privileges or funding, sorry.

This piece is written in a manner to draw on the heart strings of honest hardworking Americans; it is an attempt to show how badly immigrants suffer in this country. What it illuminates however is the fact that this young lady received an education that far surpasses anything she would have received in her home country. For that she should be grateful, not lamenting the fact that she cannot attend the college of her dreams. News flash, most of us cannot attend the college of our dreams. Welcome to America.

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