By: Huda Ahmed
Gabriella is a 19-year old undergrad student at UC Berkeley. She's originally from El-Salvador and came to the U.S. With her father when she was 16. Gabriella says she had many aspirations but none of them included living in the U.S. in fact, her dream was to obtain a scholarship to study medicine or law in Cuba, which she did. But, Gabriella says, all her dreams were shattered the day her father decided to take her from her San Salvador home and begin a new life in U.S.
She says life was hard and did not expect what she will go through especially her legal status; she still blames her parents for not being more insightful before coming. She and her dad lived in a trailer in Southern California and for many days ate only one meal a day -often just a pack of noodles. She did attend a local high school and learned English. She was so successful that she managed to gain admittance to California's Golden University—UC Berkeley.
However, Gabriella, like many undocumented students in U.S. does not have a social security card, so she cannot work legally. That's why she looks for different ways to finance her education. She lives in very cheap apartment, eats frozen food from 99 cents and wears the same cloths she has for years to save what she can.
One thing she found is a kind of underground economy for immigrant youth. There is a network of non-profit organizations trying to find creative ways to help documented and undocumented students and stop them from dropping out of school through involving them in internships and other jobs placements. The network does fundraising to make this happen. Then they pay the undocumented youth with stipends or gift cards to places like Target and Wal-Mart and Walgreens.
Gabriella says she was fortunate to find this income that is helping her finance her education. She hopes the Federal Dream Act passes soon so that more students like her can find easier- and possibly more legitimate ways to fulfill their dreams. Though this means she will not be eligible because she does not fit the Bill conditions.