Venezuelan immigrant Barbara Galizia, who is currently majoring in International Relations at American University, has never taken her life in the United States for granted. She immigrated here as a child along with her parents and sister. “It wasn’t easy for my parents to leave their family and make all the sacrifices they made for us,” she says. “But in America, success is unlimited.” And so her parents worked hard. Her father is now the executive director of a communications firm, and her mother works as a public notary.
Galizia herself was able to adapt to the new language and culture because of her third grade teacher. “She’s a big part of the reason I am who I am today,” Galizia says. “She believed in me, took a chance on me, and invested in me. The education system in America, in general, needs more investment and resources, but that especially applies to how we engage with immigrant students.”
Give these people a chance—they are coming from nothing. They want to work, they want to do something for this country, and they want to give their children an opportunity that they wouldn’t have elsewhere.
Galizia says that if immigrant students and first generation Americans had better access to schooling, they could more easily become culturally and economically contributing members of society. “Many immigrant parents cannot afford the schools here, and if you’re not a citizen, it’s much more difficult to get any kind of aid,” she says. Galizia is hoping to someday work as an ambassador for her home country after finishing her education—but that dream is only possible because she was able to become a U.S. citizen, which granted her easier access to good schools and universities, and more opportunities to intern and grow professionally.
For that reason, Galizia would like to see immigration reform offer an easier road to documentation and citizenship so that the children of immigrants have greater access to education. “Give these people a chance—they are coming from nothing,” she says. “They want to work, they want to do something for this country, and they want to give their children an opportunity that they wouldn’t have elsewhere.” As a result, she says, the country will benefit in the long term. “To educate the future of this country—immigrant or not—is how our communities and our nation will prosper.”