Winning essay from an Arkansas state competition, in which the public was asked to reflect on the DREAM Act (October 2011):
Zacatecas: the Nauhatl name for the North Central region of Mexico given by the indigenous people that inhabited the area. It is also the name of the state where I was born twenty-three years ago. It is a place rich with silver mining as well as colonial history and present day culture. It is a place I have few memories of and know mostly through books, the Internet and social media. It is also a place I have not been able to return to since the age of seven: I am an Arkansan, and I am an undocumented student.
At the age of seven, children don’t really think about what is right or wrong; they rely on their parents to guide them, and trust they take the actions necessary for a better life. This is exactly what I did when my parents said we were moving to the United States in the pursuit of a better life. The last day of school, my parents were waiting for me outside my school with backpacks. I became excited with the thought of going on a vacation, when in reality we were getting on a bus, which would take us closer to the Mexican border. Once we got off the bus, we waited for a “coyote,” a man my parents paid a great deal of money to help us cross the border. Our journey took days. We marched on, moving mostly by night, weighed down by worries, bags and younger siblings. I was too young to understand but old enough to know better than to complain. Our party soon doubled, and we became hungry and tired. All I can remember is a voice whispering in the dark, “keep walking and stay quiet.” A few days later, I was in the United States.
My transition was both easy and hard. I would tell people I met the adventure we had on our way to the United States head on. It was just like a movie: the danger and suspense unreal in the vivid mind of a young child. For me, it simply meant moving to a new place with a nice school, new friends, a new home, and hopefully a new soccer ball. My new home was and is Rogers, Arkansas. My new friends were strangers that could not understand a word that I said except when I said “I don spek in gleesh,” until, after a lot of hard work, I learned the language.
It wasn’t until I turned sixteen that I figured out what it really meant to be undocumented. One single event changed my whole life. It took many years to realize what my family and I had done was not an action movie, but rather a hard and trying journey to which I would not be able to fully reap the benefits. I couldn’t share in my friend’s joy of getting a driver’s license, I couldn’t get into rated R movies with all my friends, I couldn’t go back to Mexico to visit the family we left behind, and my dreams of getting a college education was beginning to fade.
After much hard work and more sacrifices I was able to go on with school. Despite my situation, I was able to save money, attend college, and graduate with an Associates of Science in Nursing. I was able to graduate from one of the top nursing programs in the state of Arkansas, becoming one of the first Hispanic male nurses to graduate for my school. However, because I am undocumented, I cannot work. At the same time, we still have a shortage of nurses in the United States, especially male and bilingual nurses. Since I am not able to get a job, unlike most of my classmates that graduated with me, I went back to school, and I am currently working on getting my Bachelors of Science in Nursing. I hope that one day my situation can be resolved so I can accomplish my dreams. Not only do I want to work as the emergency room nurse I have always dreamed of, but I also hold high aspirations to join the military and serve what I now consider to be my country as a military nurse or medic; another one of my dreams that is being put on hold because of the infamous nine-digit number. All I want is to save lives while giving my own life for my country.
An event that happened sixteen years ago, has shaped me into what I am today in a positive way. One large event forever changed and altered all my dreams. The one lacking nine-digit number is what builds the barriers I am always trying to break. Every single day I try to become a better person, live my life as if I had no limitations, and always remember my past in order to reach my future.