PICTURED ABOVE: Senior Julia Mitterer-Claudet brainstorms ideas for educational reform in the Teen Voices Program.
Senior Neha Dronamraju is doing an independent study regarding policy reform in the Dallas Independent School District for undocumented and ESL/ELL students. She will be sharing her experience as a contributor to The Fourcast in her blog, “Esta Tierra es Tu Tierra.”
“The focus of this blog is to chronicle the experiences and outcomes from my independent study. I am working in collaboration with the Teen Voices program, which is the student wing of the Leadership ISD initiative (https://leadershipisd.org/). The goal is to bring about educational policy reform, which will positively impact ESL/ELL (English as second language/ English Language Learners) and undocumented students in our community.”
*Pseudonyms were used to protect the identity of the three students interviewed due to the sensitivity associated with their immigration status
Mica, Pedro and Meri
Imagine that your community is defined by poverty and violence. You are unable to walk outside your home peacefully. A trip to the local hospital, the grocery shop, or school is potentially fatal. A young boy patrols your neighborhood with a gun in his hand, demands all your money, and you comply. You not only fear for yourself, but you also seek to protect a younger sibling and perhaps a grandmother, an aunt or two cousins. Maybe one or both of your parents are away from home. You live like this, and after spending the formative years of life in this environment, you are forced to flee and leave your family behind. As you embark on the journey, you may realize that you are the only girl in a group of 11 grown men who don’t have good intentions. Your emotions leave you and for the next few grueling weeks, you and your little sibling survive off your steely resolve and fight or flight instinct. And when you finally arrive to the land of promise after hearing oft repeated tales of equal opportunity, security, and success, you are disappointed to find that none of these luxuries are afforded to you. You stay in a space too small to accommodate the 10 people it houses, you miss your extended family back home, and you regret that your father couldn’t accompany you to safety. Things are not as you imagined. Despite your good intentions and willingness to contribute on par with any natural citizen, the government is hostile, and you face the threat of going back to the place you fought so hard to leave. This is the harsh reality for three undocumented high school students in our community – Mica, Pedro, and Meri, aged 19,16, and 18 respectively, who come from El Salvador and Guatemala.
Scope of Ambition
Childhood is just the first chapter of life and ambition is what defines the future. Work ethic, tenacity and integrity will set you on the path to success. America is a land where you can just pull yourself up by your bootstraps and consequently lead a prosperous life—at least this is what the American dream proposes. Unfortunately, this philosophy doesn’t hold true for people who are not given boots in the first place. The three students I met possess all of the traits that are considered “keys to success.” It is evident that their dreams of college and their initiative to do the right thing can only benefit everyone around them. Even though Mica, Pedro and Meri face plenty of problems here, their gratitude for this country was apparent in the interview.
“We want people to understand that we are good students, good people, and that we want to do better for America,” Mica said.
Alienating undocumented immigrants for a status they cannot control is inexcusable, as we gain from them as much as, and possibly more than they could ever gain from us. To my three new friends and those in similar situations, esta tierra es tu tierra.
This is the first of a series of blogs I will be posting about my personal account of the students and their circumstances. Next time, I will discuss in detail their dreams and challenges.
Neha Dronamraju – Contributor