By: Karen Vallejos Corrales, Dream Project Alumna
I immigrated to the United States at the age of five and grew up here in Virginia. I was undocumented, and I along with many other dreamers, grew up in a time before President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, and constricting Virginia state laws. Back then, my greatest desire was the passing of an immigration reform bill that would, among other rights, allow me to pursue higher education in my home state of Virginia. My greatest desire was the passing of an immigration reform bill that would allow me to pursue higher education. However, with the 2010 failure of the DREAM Act, these goals seemed impossible. Despite the odds and my disappointment, I continued to work within my community by involving myself in the foundation of The Dream Project, Inc., a nonprofit organization that assists first-generation immigrant students pursue higher education. I also became determined more than ever to obtain a university degree and immersed myself in my studies with the goal of being a successful student.
The Dream Project gave me a sense of camaraderie and community as I navigated the arduous college application process, and it supported and encouraged me throughout those difficult years. In 2012, I graduated from Washington-Lee High school with the International Baccalaureate Diploma and Valedictorian status. I secured a Dream Project scholarship that helped me pay to attend Southwestern Adventist University where I graduated in 2015 with honors and a double major in International Business and History. This past year, on May 10, 2020, I graduated with a Juris Doctor from Washington and Lee School of Law.
I am proud to tell you this story and to encourage other young undocumented, DACA, TPS and asylum seekers to apply for the Dream Project Scholarship. Unfortunately, undocumented students continue to face the same uncertainty and challenges I faced a decade ago, with only 5%-10% of undocumented high school graduates attending college. Fortunately, undocumented students in Virginia today can rely upon the Dream Project’s ten years of experience to help them access college and give them the tools they need to succeed in college and beyond. If you are a motivated, talented, and immigrant student like me that wants to get ahead I urge you to apply for the Dream Project scholarship and to never stop believing and working toward your dreams.