by Jose Luis Orozco, Jr.
Community School Coordinator Supervisor, Kent School Services Network

As a high school counselor, there is no prouder moment than when you see the students that you have worked with for the past couple of years walk across that stage to be handed their high school diplomas.

However, I knew in the back of my mind that there were students in the graduating class whose futures were filled with uncertainty.

In particular, I still recall the incident of a high school senior coming into the high school after graduation and asking me to help him with an issue he was having with the college he was going to attend.

The student was a “Dreamer,” as we call undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children, living here under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, now under threat.

This student started in, “Sir, I am excited and ready to go to college.”

But he had received a letter about a problem with his financial aid and his social security number. It was obvious that he did not have a clue that his social security card was actually a work authorization tied to his deferred action status.

I explained how this letter meant that he would have to pay in cash to be able to attend college. There would be no governmental assistance for him.

It was then that he realized the limitations of being a DACA recipient and what it meant to be a Dreamer. Although this student could not take the next step to fulfill his educational dream, he did not give up hope. Last time I heard from this student, he was working in a restaurant to finance his further education.

His dedication demonstrates, at an individual level, something that many people understand about the Dreamers.

By investing in the education of all of our students, we are investing in our future. The data is clear: these young people are making significant economic contributions to our country, and those will only grow if we encourage and support their educational ambitions. By pushing them out, we’re wasting a lot of talent and human potential that we desperately need in this country.

On a positive note, a couple of years later, that student’s sister, also a Dreamer, was granted a presidential scholarship to a local university where she is excelling.

I wish this was an isolated story during my tenure as a high school counselor, but it was not. For many Dreamers, America is the only country that they have ever known.