I already knew in the back of my head that I would not get any federal financial aid. I tried my best nevertheless, with the conscious knowledge that optimism is a gift and that there is always room for improvement.
I smiled more, just to maybe make someone’s day. I wrote a play and helped direct it at a theater, learning to embrace English though it was not my first language. I applied to and received private scholarships, inspiring myself to pursue higher education. I became part of the student body at my high school, eager to learn what leadership was about. I was awarded by the English department, again reminding to myself and others that I could be different if I worked hard. I volunteered for my church and my community, knowing the importance of helping others. And I graduated with honors and as the valedictorian in 2010, proud that regardless of the domestic violence I faced at home and the countless limitations I faced in life, I was a changing, growing individual that would remain strong.
Yet such accomplishments meant little to many, I suppose. Because to many, I was just another undocumented student.
To many, I was not worth it. To many, the fate of us, the undocumented students who grew up with American perceptions and beliefs, were not American.
But it is okay. Ignorance strengthens me. I am reminded that I can do this, because I do not live for them but for me and for the ones I love and love me in return. I am living in the moment—in today and in now—because I do not want to die with regrets; regrets are to be feared. I am studying diligently now because it means better tomorrows. I am strong now because weakness is unwelcome, and it will not help me get where I want to be, where I think I deserve to be after the obstacles I have overcome.
Why do I persevere? Why do I do what I do? Because to me, there is no other option. I must surpass the expectations; I must prove to myself and everyone my worth.