Eunice grew up doing everything right. She worked hard, got good grades, participated in extracurricular activities and made the honor roll. When her school sponsored college tours, she went on most of them, and dreamed about being a college student. But when Eunice graduated she learned that was not eligible for any scholarships or financial aid because she was brought to the United States from Mexico when she was eleven years old and was not a legal U.S. citizen. When she found out that she could not get any financial aid and her parents couldn’t afford to send her, “It was heartbreaking.” Eunice looked around at her friends and classmates who did not work as hard as she did but were able to go to college. “I…actually did my homework and I didn’t cheat but there were no scholarships for me…it was heartbreaking to see that all that I did in high school was going to be of no use.” So Eunice did not go to college after graduating high school and she and her husband decided to get married instead and shortly after their first child was born.
Eunice now lives in Texas with her husband and three children. In 2010, Eunice’s children were enrolled in Community Action’s Head Start program where she learned about the Adult Education program. Community Action’s Adult Ed teachers in Luling helped get Eunice ready to take classes at Austin Community College. Community Action career counselor, Francesca Ramirez, helped Eunice apply for financial aid through TASFA (Texas Application for State Financial Aid) which grants students without legal status some money to attend school at a Texas institution. With this and some additional financial help from Community Action, Eunice was able to attend three semesters at ACC. Eunice was very excited about returning to school. “It’s seven years later and I finally see the results of my high school years. Because I couldn’t go to the university that I wanted to so I was so happy when I started going to community college and y’all (Community Action) gave me the boost by paying for my summer classes.”
Eunice is not currently in school because her third child was born in February 2012, but finishing her education remains her major goal. She knows that it may take her a few more years to achieve her degree, but that isn’t discouraging her. “Time is still going to go by, whether I go to school or not. If it takes me ten years to complete my degree, those ten years are gonna go by either way.”
In September, Eunice submitted her application for Deferred Action under the DACA program (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). Her application included dozens of documents that proved her presence in the United States since she was eleven years old ranging from middle school transcripts and school IDS to birth certificates of her children. In November, Eunice was granted employment authorization. The employment authorization does not change her legal status so she is still not eligible for financial aid or scholarships but she now has the ability to work to pay for her education if she chooses. Eunice is an intelligent, determined and inspirational young woman. She is an inspiration to all immigrants who wish to become U.S. citizens and continue their education. Community Action has no doubt that she will succeed in her future academic endeavors and career.