Prishay will receive two associate’s degrees, one in science and the second in social science, from Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) in the summer of 2019, just one year after graduating high school. This achievement is due to the ten AP exams with near perfect scores she took in high school.
Prishay earned a 4.3 GPA in high school while participating in extracurricular activities ranging from the arts program to National Math, Science, History, and German Honor Societies. She is fluent in five languages – English, Urdu, Punjabi, Hindi and German. She proudly served as a senator for Loudon Student Government in 2018-2019. Her numerous recognitions and awards from prestigious educational institutions, such as the College of William & Mary and the University of Rochester, laud her leadership skills, community contributions, and academic performance.
Although the United States has been Prishay’s home for half of her young life, she is an undocumented immigrant. Even though Prishay has lived in Virginia for nine years, she must pay out-of-state tuition, which is three times more expensive than in-state tuition, rendering the cost of education nearly unattainable for her. Because she is unable to meet the time requirements to qualify for DACA, she is ineligible for loans and financial aid typically available to DACA recipients and U.S. citizens.
Due to her lack of funds, Prishay was unable to take a full course load in the fall semester. Still, Prishay is grateful to have financed her NOVA education through several small, private scholarships and her job as a medical assistant at a psychiatric clinic. Her ability to finance and thus continue her formal education remains uncertain. Prishay’s long-term goal is to become a doctor in the United States serving individuals unable to afford healthcare and offsetting the predicted severe shortage of physicians in this country.
Being an undocumented immigrant in this country doesn’t stop Flor from following her dreams. She has been recognized for numerous honors and awards, a majority of which involve video production and leadership. During her senior year, she was selected to receive the competitive and prestigious national Posse Scholarship, awarded to students who demonstrate academic excellence, intrinsic leadership abilities, teamwork, and a motivation and desire to succeed.
Flor De Maria is active in her school and community, bridging her desire to help others with her love for filmmaking. She works with a variety of programs that assist students on their path to college, tutors students in various academic subjects, and teaches children the skills she has learned about video production.
Flor has the drive and determination to go places and brighten the world around her on the way! She works hard to create a better life for herself as well as those who will come after her. Family is deeply important to Flor, and she is grateful for every moment she spends with her hardworking parents, whose courage, fortitude, and selflessness serve as her constant inspiration.
Flor hopes to combine her interests in political and social issues in the United States with her skills and love of filmmaking to educate others about social injustice and to influence policies to help level the playing field for underserved people.
Until age seven, Brith relied on the care and support of her older sister, aunt, and uncle in Bolivia while her parents lived in the United States. To Brith, gaining parents at age seven was as new as living in the United States.
At first, Brith felt resentment toward her parents and a sense of abandonment. These feelings evaporated once her younger sister was born a few years later. Brith felt a love for her baby sister that she imagined her parents must always have felt for her. She gained a new understanding about the sacrifices her parents had made for their family. She realized what it was like to want the best for someone, no matter what was necessary to achieve it – even if it meant enduring a family separation. This change of heart and new maturity motivated Brith as she forged her future path.
Brith strived for excellence in school while participating in clubs, sports, and tutoring including starting on the varsity gymnastics, cheerleading, track, and wrestling teams– all while working 20 hours per week to contribute to her family’s living expenses. During the summer, Brith participated in the prestigious Early Identification Program at George Mason University which supported her in preparing for college and researching potential careers. Brith graduated from Falls Church High School with a 3.9 grade point average and received the competitive Posse Scholarship, which provides recipients with full tuition and housing at the University of Rochester.
Brith is now thriving as at the University of Rochester. She wants to become an engineer and start her own business. To achieve these goals, she is studying Business Administration with a minor in Environmental Engineering.
Dayana graduated from George Mason University in 2017 with a 3.5 GPA in computer science. Although she had earned "full ride" scholarships to five universities based on her stellar high school academic record and test scores, due to her status as an undocumented immigrant prior to the establishment of DACA in 2012, she was ineligible to use these scholarships, apply for financial aid, or pay in-state tuition rates at a Virginia college.
Although financing her education was challenging under these conditions, Dayana chose to work hard to earn her college degree. She worked as an intern, administrative assistant, and technology consultant with the Dream Project. She also held five other jobs, often three to four simultaneously, throughout college to help pay her ever-mounting expenses.
Dayana’s financial stress was somewhat alleviated in 2014 when Virginia’s Attorney General, Mark Herring, declared that DACA recipients could receive in-state tuition. Although her college experience was inordinately challenging, Dayana is proud to demonstrate that with extraordinary effort and singular focus, one can earn one’s way through college without scholarships or loans through motivation and hard work.
Dayana developed her drive, determination, and tenacity at a young age. At age nine, Dayana and her family emigrated from Colombia to the United States, where she learned that they were considered "illegals." It was difficult, but she learned to successfully navigate an entirely new world with a new language and customs away from her extended family and support system of twenty-seven cousins. Eventually, Dayana made friends and became an outstanding high school student, varsity cheerleader, and National Honor Society member.
Today, Dayana is employed as a junior software developer at Gannett, the largest U.S. newspaper group and parent company of USA Today and over one hundred other newspapers. She and her husband, whom she met through a co-ed professional engineering fraternity, own a home and are active, productive members of our society. Dayana and her husband are now giving back to the Dream Project by supporting two Dream Project Named Scholarships.
Dayana will soon become a naturalized U.S. citizen and finally overcome the pervasive sense that she doesn’t belong in the country, despite it being her home for most of her life. She looks forward to her bright future and is proud to continue to contribute her talents to support the STEM needs of our country.
Ola, born and raised in Sudan, is majoring in biology at Marymount University with plans to become a dentist. Abandoned by her father, Ola’s family became political targets of a ruthless administration after her brother participated in an anti-government protest. While her mother and brother were forced to hide from authorities, Ola was left alone at age 12 to care for her younger sister. Despite this terrifying environment, she graduated from high school and began college in Sudan.
However, a new threat to Ola and her sister arose when a family relative attempted to force them to undergo female genital mutilation, a common practice in Sudan, whereas approximately 90% of females have been subjected to this heinous practice. Ola’s mother refused to have her daughters to undergo this procedure, fleeing Africa and relocating to the United States to protect her children.
In the United States, Ola enrolled in high school to improve her language skills and acquired a Dream Project mentor to guide her through the college application process. Through the Dream Project mentoring program, she also gained a support system with other DREAMers who bolstered one another in their quest to achieve a college education.
Even though she was ineligible for in-state tuition, federal loans, or financial aid from public universities due to her undocumented immigration status, Ola received a partial scholarship from Marymount University, a private Virginia university, which covers a portion of her tuition. However, this still leaves her with an intimidating debt. Covering the costs of other life expenses remains difficult because she is prohibited from legal employment until she has gained refugee status — a long, expensive, and uncertain process.
Ola’s courage and determination in overcoming the challenges associated with both her past and future status as an undocumented immigrant assures us that she will succeed in achieving her educational and career goals. Her success will reduce the projected shortfall of STEM-qualified workers, benefiting her adopted home country.
Andres is grateful to be able to pursue his educational interests at Georgetown University, where he is majoring in Economics and minoring in Psychology and Business Administration. He is also a member of the Georgetown Men’s Soccer Club, which enables him to connect with a new community of people.
As an undocumented child immigrant from Mexico separated from his family for many years, Andres was finally reunited with his parents in Virginia at age 11. For years after his arrival in the United States, he wondered if having personal goals was pointless, fearing he would be forced to end his education due to his legal status. Only after joining the Emerging Leaders Program, designed to enable aspiring leaders to improve their writing, interview, and public speaking skills, did he learn that not all colleges disregarded undocumented students as potential applicants. This experience changed Andres’s vision for his future forever.
One of Andres’ proudest achievements has been becoming a fluent English speaker in only two years. This fluency enables him to demonstrate his potential as a learner, express himself, and feel confident about his learning abilities. Becoming bilingual has opened new doors for his future. This achievement embodies what he values as fundamental to education: discipline, initiative, resilience, and commitment, as well as learning from his own mistakes and from others. It exemplifies his endeavor to thrive in a diverse society and reflects his motto that nothing profitable comes without arduous effort. Learning a new language corresponds with his willingness to merge into a new culture, pursue excellence, and overcome obstacles. It represents a milestone in his education and defines the strong-willed individual that he has become. Through his mentoring of other young immigrant children, he strives to instill an understanding of the life-changing power of education.
A current challenge that he finds daunting, however, is financing his college education. He is grateful for the assistance of the Dream Project, where he learned that even as an undocumented immigrant, he is eligible to apply for college. He relies heavily on his scholarship from Georgetown University as well as financial aid, but is acutely aware that this aid is tenuous and requires annual re-applications with no guarantee of renewal.
Andres’ vision for his future is to become an economist who focuses on clients’ social context to further understand the reasoning behind their economic behavior. In doing so, he would combine his passions for economics and psychology to continue to facilitate the success of others.
By the age of 16, Karen’s passion for immigrant rights – in particular, reform enabling access to higher education in Virginia – developed as she became a proactive advocate. Despite the many barriers that undocumented first-generation students must overcome, Karen earned an International Baccalaureate Diploma from Washington-Lee High School and graduated as a class valedictorian. During this time, Karen engaged with the Dream Project, which drove her to help the support and mentoring network that the Dream Project now provides to other immigrant high school students.
Karen was dismayed to witness the 2010 collapse of the DREAM Act, which offered qualifying children of undocumented immigrants a potential path to legalization and permanent residency. She feared she would have to contend with, as so many undocumented students do, overwhelming obstacles to pursuing higher education. However, because of her exceptional accomplishments, Karen received a partial tuition scholarship to Southwestern Adventist University and graduated in three years with a double major in International Business and History.
During her undergraduate years, she interned for Virginia senator Tim Kaine and gained exposure to litigation with the Advancement Project and the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights. After graduation, Karen became the Project Administrator at NovaSalud, Inc., a community health nonprofit.
Currently, Karen is a second-year law student at Washington and Lee University School of Law. Her first summer she interned as a law clerk for the Office of the Attorney General of Virginia and will spend her next summer working as a law clerk for a California law firm. Karen continues to find ways to integrate her passion for immigrant rights with her legal studies and recently traveled with a team of volunteers to Tijuana, Mexico in order to provide legal aid to the ongoing migrant and refugee crisis at the border. Her diverse experiences and the challenges she has overcome make her a leader among lawyers, community advocates, and policymakers in the field of immigrant rights.
When Papia immigrated to the United States in 2015, who would have imagined that in just a few year’s time she’d be on her way to college? Coming from Bangladesh, she only had a basic command of the English language. Her father had passed away five years earlier, so she emigrated with her mother, sister, brother-in-law, and their new baby.
Papia immediately immersed herself in the English language and focused on her studies. By all accounts, she excelled both academically and in bettering the lives of others. With a 3.98 grade point average she was inducted into the National Honor Society, where she participated in community service activities. Along with two other juniors, she organized a successful park clean-up project during her school’s community day. She also tutored several students in math and science.
When Papia noticed that immigrants in her school were finding it difficult to adapt to a new culture, she helped organize opportunities to form bridges between her fellow immigrant students and the American-born students in her school. Outside of school, she held an internship at Virginia Tech’s Center for Leadership in Global Sustainability and did part-time restaurant work to help pay her family’s bills.
The Dream Project’s Mentoring Program was very helpful to Papia as she worked her way through the college application process. Always giving back to the community, she participated in Dream Project activities to fund scholarships for other students.
All of this hard work, commitment, and leadership paid off. In fall of 2017, Papia began studying at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Her college career began with a bang—in her first semester she earned straight A’s, was named to the president’s list, and was initiated into Phi Eta Sigma, the oldest and largest freshman honor society in the country— all while working part-time. Her goal is to someday become the Chief Financial Officer of a large company. Given all the dreams she has already realized, this one does not seem so far-fetched.
With just three classes and an internship to complete, Henry is poised to graduate from George Mason University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work with a GPA of 3.8. His dream is to become a social worker and assist others in the United States overcome the challenges similar to what he experienced during his traumatic journey to escape violence in El Salvador, and later, the obstacles he has faced since arriving in the United States.
Henry grew up in an impoverished family in El Salvador. At the age of 14, as an unaccompanied minor, he embarked upon a dangerous journey to the United States fleeing both the poverty and mortal violence of local gangs. Kidnapped in transit by the Mexican Drug Cartel and held captive for a month, he witnessed horrific wrongdoings that he cannot, even after many years, bring himself to speak about.
Ultimately, Henry found himself in Virginia, where he enrolled in a high school with a flexible work-study program which allowed him to support himself and send money back home to his family. In school, Henry excelled in every way: tutoring math to those who struggled, winning the Presidential Merit Award, and graduating second in his class. After earning an Associate’s Degree at Northern Virginia Community College, he transferred to George Mason University to pursue his Bachelor’s Degree.
Although in reality Henry met the requirements to obtain DACA, because he was unaccompanied and a 14-year-old child when he arrived in the U.S., he did not collect and save the specific documents that the process required. As a result of his undocumented status, he faces many challenges such as paying out-of-state college tuition rates and the inability to get a driver’s license. He strives to give back to his adopted home and humbly seeks to become a “real American boy.”
After her life was threatened in Bolivia, Rick and his mother fled to the United States to join his father in Virginia. Rick began his freshman year of high school 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. He enrolled in Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA), but even there, faced prohibitive educational costs, as undocumented students are ineligible for in-state tuition and therefore forced to pay more than double that rate.
Although Rick thrived in his studies, his educational progress was slowed by the need to work full-time at a 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 in his influence 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.