After the life of Rick’s mother was threatened in Bolivia, Rick and his mother fled to the United States to join his father in Virginia. Rick began his high school freshman year without any knowledge of the English language, traumatized by the violence he had left behind and fearful of the new life he faced as an undocumented immigrant in America. However, Rick proved to be a quick and motivated learner, and soon mustered the courage to dream of becoming an engineer. Ultimately, he enrolled in Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA), but even there, he faced prohibitive educational costs, as undocumented students are ineligible for in-state tuition and therefore are forced to pay more than double the in-state tuition rate.
Although Rick thrived in his studies, his educational progress was slowed by the need to work full time at his retail job while attending school. He continued to struggle in affording his education after he transferred to George Mason University to earn a bachelor’s degree. Despite being offered several paid engineering internships, his status as an undocumented immigrant precluded his ability to accept them. Notwithstanding these challenges, Rick’s passion for engineering, and his growing leadership skills, are reflected in his creation of NOVA’s first engineering club as well as his influence in expanding GMU’s course offerings to include power engineering, a topic of particular interest to him. Eight years after high school graduation, Rick finally earned his Bachelor of Science degree.
Rick is now employed in a small engineering firm that was willing to risk hiring an undocumented immigrant. He now volunteers in the Dream Project’s Mentoring Program, guiding and encouraging undocumented high school students to find paths to higher education and personal fulfillment.