‘Soy el Puente de los Sueños’ | ‘I’m the Bridge of Dreams’

ByStephanie Ortiz

My family brought me to the United States at the age of three hoping that all of us would achieve the American Dream. I spent my childhood in Los Angeles buying into that idea, but as I got older, I came to see that immigrants rarely have what they need to achieve the American Dream.

Without legal status, individuals are forced to take on rigorous and demanding jobs for minimum wage or less, and they face discrimination and fear due to their status, even as they make invaluable social and economic contributions to U.S. society.

I’m one of the lucky ones. As a DREAMer, a student who qualified for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) program, I wanted to give my parents the satisfaction of seeing me be the first in my family to attend college. I ultimately did, but it took a huge network of individuals and organizations working on my behalf to make that happen. This summer, as a policy and advocacy intern with UnidosUS’s education team, I got to reflect on what that experience was like and how it could be streamlined for other immigrant students like myself.

How I Got There

Applying to college was not an easy process, but I got a leg up because I attended KIPP LA Prep in LA’s predominantly Latino Boyle Heights neighborhood. KIPP LA Prep is run by the KIPP Foundation, an organization whose mission is to offer vigorous education to low-income communities. The foundation made sure that all middle and high school students in its program got academic advising and financial support even after graduating from the charter school.

This kind of support continued when I went on to attend the Math, Science, and Technology Magnet Academy (MSTMA) at Boyle Heights’ Roosevelt High School. Thanks to its alliance with the non-profit organization College Track, the MSTMA provided students with workshops to develop their personal statements and strengthen their standardized test scores, along with workshops that informed parents about how they could better support us.

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