Student reveals Dream Act’s impact

Sharida Rejon, Features editor

“Since I started school I knew that I didn’t have the same opportunities as everyone else, and when I was in high school it was very hard for me because everyone was talking about college, but I didn’t know what was going on back then,” said 19-year-old Adelaida Hernandez, an undocumented student at Bakersfield College, about some of the fears she faced while her educational future was uncertain.

Hernandez’s journey in the United States began when her mother brought her from Mexico when she was 8 years old. Since then, Hernandez faced challenges that very few students go through.

“English is not my first language, neither is Spanish, we speak a dialect from Oaxaca,” said Hernandez. “So when I came here I had to learn English and Spanish at the same time.”

Belonging to a family of six in which all members lack a college education, Hernandez said that she always knew she wanted to go to school and further her education past high school.

“Where I come from, people don’t get educated, they are very humble,” said Hernandez. “I would see my older brothers and all of them are working, breaking their backs, and working in the fields, but they’re not getting anything – they just keep working, and working, and working for minimum pay. I don’t want that, I want to break that cycle.”

Although she desired a college education, Hernandez was unsure about the possibility of getting one.

“I was afraid because I wouldn’t hear of anyone else who was in the same situation as me, and I thought I was the only one,” she said. “But once I talked to one of the counselors and I told them that I didn’t have a social security number to apply for colleges, that’s when they started helping me.”

According to Hernandez, counselors at her high school started to notice that several students were not applying for colleges and scholarships, and it wasn’t until she spoke up about her situation that they figured out that the reason was not because they didn’t want to apply, but because the majority of these students were undocumented, and they did not know they had the option to attend college.

“They told me that I was considered an AB 540 student, or undocumented student, and that I had an opportunity to go to school,” she said. “The counselors made a little group of AB 540 students to help them go to college, and that’s when I noticed that there were more students like me in my graduating class.”

Once she learned that she could in fact attend college, Hernandez was ecstatic. “Most of the stuff was going to come out of my pocket, but I still had the opportunity to attend school, so that was a little bit of shining light,” she said. “My motto is that once I start something, I need to finish it, whatever it takes – and that’s what I was going to do.”

Hernandez enrolled in 17 units during her first semester at BC, making the tuition over $1,000. “I worked in the summer out in the fields with my mom, and I was able to make enough for my first semester. It was overwhelming, but I was able to do it.”

Her mom, who she credits for being her motivation when she feels like she is about to give up, is also one of the reasons for pursuing a college education.

“I see her working in the fields, and I see that she’s getting tired,” said Hernandez. “She has been very supportive, and has always pushed me to keep going even if it’s hard sometimes, so I want to be able to get a good job that pays well and be able to help her out.”

Hernandez said that she feels like since she graduated from high school, more doors have opened for AB 540 students.

“Now we can apply for the Dream Act, which gives us the option to receive some money, and also the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which provides a temporary social security number and employment opportunities for us,” she said. Recently, the Board of Governor’s Fee Waiver has also been approved for AB 540 students, which gives students the opportunity to get their enrollment fees waived.

Hernandez said that her ultimate goal is to get her associate’s degree from BC and transfer to a CSU.

“I want others to see that you can reach your goals, and even if you have to take it step by step, you’ll eventually get there,” she said. “Good things take time and they take effort, but it’ll be worth it in the end.”