Barbara, a healthcare worker in Fayetteville, Arkansas, always did well in school. In kindergarten, she quickly learned English with the help of a friend. In second grade, she found confidence in small math competitions. And when she got to ninth grade, she began her involvement with student council.
She managed all this without much help from her parents, who didn’t speak English or fully understand the U.S. school system. When the time came for her to think about her plans after high school, however, tension in the family rose. She wanted to go to college, but they wanted her to get a job. “To them, it was like… you come to the States, you go to school, and then you work (after high school),” Barbara said. Her parents would provide her with housing, food, and other necessities, but they couldn’t help much with her school payments while taking care of her five siblings.
Luckily, through her involvement with the IT academy at her high school, Barbara was able to earn college credits for courses in marketing and web design. This allowed her to continue her education at Northwest Arkansas Community College in Bentonville. She studied part-time and worked as a waitress at a restaurant to pay for her schooling.
It’s been hard for me to achieve the future I want to achieve. School expenses for me are double what it would be for most students who had lived in the area for 18 years.
In the first year of her associate degree program, her successful application for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) brought back hope for higher education. By that time, many of her friends had gone to colleges and universities. “If they can do it, I can do it too,” Barbara thought. After finishing her associate degree program in 2015, however, finances were still a struggle so Barbara decided to take a year off school. With her bilingual skills, she found a job at the Metabolic Research Center, where she specializes in providing weight-loss services to the Hispanic community. She plans to start her bachelor’s program within a year.
But for undocumented students like Barbara, paying for college in Arkansas can be difficult. “It’s been hard for me to achieve the future I want to achieve,” she says, “School expenses for me are double what it would be for most students who had lived in the area for 18 years.” She says she would like to see immigration reforms that would make it easier for ambitious DREAMers like herself to contribute. “I want to make a difference in my community,” she says, “And more than anything, I want to be able to help my family out as well.”