My Struggle as an Undocumented, Runaway Student Didn’t Prevent Me From Being Accepted to Cal Berkeley

Most students detest waking up early on Monday morning for school. As for me? Well, I’ve been a special case since I could remember. I embodied the definition of early worm during December and January. Fortunately for me, Mr. Moran was an early worm as well; so when I texted him with a knot in my throat asking for a ride at four in the morning, he responded immediately. Moran’s reply was simple, but it could be categorized as the last bit of hope which saved me. His reply read, “I’m happy to help out however I can! I know all things can be stressful, but finding your way to and from school shouldn’t be one of them.” So, I sat there in the mornings, in Starbucks at five AM waiting for him to pick me up and take me to school with him.

Having slept in my best friend Val’s car the night prior, my body refused to get up for school. The late nights from homework and early mornings because Val had to be at work at four constantly had me exhausted. However, as an undocumented student and a runaway from abusive parents, there was no room for error. I remember my father’s refusal in allowing me to attend my Harvard interview the month prior, I remember them never attending cross country races, and I remember the dehumanization after opening up to them about my depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts.

At times I do question where I would be right now if I had stayed home, I never question if I have made the right choice anymore. The reality of it all is that I did what I had to do to for my future. I remember being punished after my interview, because not only did I attend, but I went to buy a few books at Barnes and Nobles after. My father clearly didn’t approve of me going to Harvard, and it was horrendous when I got home. I could have continued to live with my parents, in a place where I was restricted and abused, not only physically but mentally and emotionally.

But I didn’t.

I left because deep down, I knew that I deserved better. I knew my parents were never going to support me nor treat me in the same way they treated my brother, and their actions proved it. Leaving was much more than just the Harvard interview, it was about believing on the possibility of a better future — a future in which my voice mattered, a way of life where higher education didn’t seem impossible.

Although I was deferred and then denied by Harvard, I have committed to UC Berkeley as of recently. As a DACA student from the hood, it was an honor to have even been considered by Harvard, but having not been accepted does not measure my worth. However, I still made it to Cal Berkeley, and how did I get there? Not only with the constant relentless and determination to succeed, but with the support system around me. Having been brainwashed by family members my whole life, that as an undocumented student from a low income community, higher education wasn’t for me, without support from individuals like Moran and Val I probably wouldn’t be where I am.

To every minority student out there, there is hope. Believe in yourself relentlessly. As Stephen King once said, “Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work.” So, work harder than those which are fortunate to not have experienced your struggles. Work harder simply because you can. Your struggle doesn’t define you, but it strengthens you. Higher education is for you too!

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Yendy Rebollo

Yendy Rebollo

Yendy Rebollo is an independent, low-income, first-generation, undocumented or rather DACA-mented, woman of color navigating higher education at the University of California Berkeley. She has been an independent student since her senior year of high school, when she ran away from her abusive parents. It is in that same year, Yendy became a published writer with Yendy is currently double majoring in Ethnic Studies and Comparative Literature with a Minor in Education. She strives to attend law school as soon as she is finished with her Bachelor’s degree.

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