Here to Thrive: A Chico State Dreamer Shares His Story
By Miguel Maldonado, Junior, Business Marketing
When I look back and try to trace to my earliest memory, all I can remember is 3-year-old me in a car at night, rolling down my window, seeing nice apartments, and being in awe. It was Moorpark, California. If I was in that much shock, I guess it was way nicer than where I lived previously. I don’t think I have ever even seen a photo of the house I grew up in in Tecualtitán, Mexico.
That was the first day I experienced in the United States. Growing up, I knew that I was not a citizen. But in the second grade, you don’t know the full extent of what being an “undocumented immigrant” means. The first time I realized the severity of this situation was my freshman year in high school, when I was called into the secretary’s office and asked to provide my Social Security number. When I said I didn’t have one, I saw the look of worry on her face as she quietly said, “You know, if you don’t have one, getting to college is going to be extremely hard.”
At this point in time, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) wasn’t in place yet. I remember going home to tell my mom about the trip to the secretary’s office. She told me the words that still drive me to this day: “Venimos a este pais para triunfar.”
“We came to this country to thrive.”
Around my sophomore year in high school, then-President Barack Obama introduced DACA. This sent shockwaves throughout my community, since it could change the future for everybody: me, my family, friends, classmates, and strangers that I didn’t even know. We were all wary at first, since this meant we would have to come out of hiding and let the government know that we existed.
For my family, and with my mother’s determined attitude, it didn’t matter. If there was any opportunity that we could take to get me college, we would take it.
After meeting with lawyers, paying hundreds of dollars in fees, and countless stressful nights worrying about my future, we finally got a notice saying that my paperwork was approved. I felt invincible. I felt like I could do anything I set my mind to.
My junior year of high school, I moved from Los Angeles to a small Northern California town, Tulelake. Saying I was culture-shocked was an understatement. Nothing is stranger than going from constant warm weather to having to walk to school in the snow and slipping all the way there. I also observed a lack of opportunities in this community. But there were some. One of my teachers suggested I join the Tulelake School Board and School Site Council, and I pursued the idea.
Tulelake is very rural. Most families work on farms and don’t realize that college is a possibility. I wanted to make a big push to help my classmates realize that life after high school didn’t have to mean field work—it could mean a quality college education. By the end of my high school career, I was president of Associated Student Body, Rotary Interact, and the California Scholarship Federation. I participated in the Academic Decathlon and won 15 medals. And I left with an admission into California State University, Chico, earning a scholarship from the McConnell Foundation alongside local scholarships.
Now I am here in my third year at Chico State, majoring in business marketing with a minor in ethics, justice and policy. I am a member of both a business fraternity, Phi Chi Theta, and a social fraternity, Alpha Sigma Phi. My career goal is to graduate with honors and end up working on a marketing team for a great company like Apple or Everlane. To help me achieve this goal, I have managed to be in the top 15 percentile of my major, and I created a website that serves as a portfolio and an online resume.
My reasoning for being involved isn’t for selfish motives. It is to help make my community better and leave it better than I found it. I’m a Dreamer, and I live up to the name.
The thing to know about Dreamers is we are extremely determined and involved. We are born with a go-getter mentality. We have fought hard to be on the same playing field as U.S. citizens. We have big dreams, and we are driven to succeed. Many, if not all, are changing the course of their families’ history and setting an example for future generations to come.
This week, President Donald Trump ordered an end to DACA, giving a six-month timeline to phase out the protections it offers young people like myself. To me, the end of DACA will be an end to all 800,000 hard-earned dreams and will have made our fight worthless. Immigrants are vital to our communities and our economy. We are not disposable, and we will not go away without a fight.
We are here to stay.