I have known that I was undocumented for years, of course, but never understood what it really meant until I applied to college. I called admissions offices around the country. “I’m sorry,” they told me on a number of occasions, “We don’t accept people like you here.” One by one, I crossed different colleges off my list. It took it’s toll. Since fifth grade, I had repeated the KIPP mantra of “To and Through College.” Now, I didn’t know if my status would stand between me and my dreams.
That year of applying to schools was one of the hardest times of my life. But there were good moments, too: people or experiences that pushed me into an unexpected place of clarity. A KIPP Spanish teacher completely changed my view on cultural pride. Although people think of me as Mexican-American, I had never identified with the label. In my mind, I was neither Mexican or American: I was stuck somewhere in between. This KIPP teacher – I’ll never forget it – she uncovered a sense of pride in my history that had previously been hidden. She uncovered a part of me that I didn’t know was even there. And other teachers, too, helped me to realize the student I could be, the woman I could be. Even when things seemed impossible, when it seemed like I would never get accepted to college, they were there, giving me encouragement, giving me…hope.
Noemi is currently a sophomore in college.