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 record and scores, due to her status as an undocumented immigrant prior to the establishment of DACA in 2012, she was ineligible to use the 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, and held five other jobs, often three to four simultaneously, throughout her college experience 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 9, Dayana and her family migrated from Colombia to the United States, where she learned that she and her family were considered ‘illegals.’ It was difficult, but she learned to successfully navigate through an entirely new world, with a new language and customs, away from her extended family and support system of twenty-seven cousins.  Eventually, she made friends and became an outstanding high school student, a Varsity Cheerleader and a National Honor Society member.

Today, Dayana is employed as a junior software developer at Gannett, the largest US 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 US citizen and finally overcome the pervasive sense that she doesn’t belong here in the United States, 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.