David Liendo, a senior in Cornell University, is a DREAMer. Like the other estimated 2.1 million DREAMers, David was brought to the United States as a child by his parents. He wants to become a doctor or scientist in the field of cancer research because several of his family members have been touched by cancer. Recently, Liendo was granted temporary permission to remain in the country through the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals initiative. It allows undocumented youth to remain in the country for two years and temporarily eliminates the possibility of deportation for many students.
by David Liendo
I think of teachers as my second family because they have supported me, guided me and are invested in seeing me succeed. Because of them, I have done so many things that I would not have been able to do by myself.
My life in the United States has not been easy. In fact, I discovered quickly that it was quite difficult to be here without my family and documents while navigating a new country, culture and language on my own. I was faced with the challenge of supporting myself financially while learning how to be a student in a new language, with new teachers and in a new school system.
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I met Ms. Becker at the start of my junior year in high school. I could tell right away that she was intelligent, but what stood out to me was that she tried to help every single student. Everyone in the classroom trusted her. I admired her for her friendly demeanor, helpfulness, thoughtfulness, enthusiasm and genuine dedication to her students. She believed in us and taught us to believe in ourselves. She helped us create goals and develop a plan to achieve them.
I also admired that she cares about her family as I do. She speaks often of them and their impact on her. I have a similar bond with and appreciation for my family.
Through tears and loneliness, I had to dig deep and do whatever I needed to do to keep on going. Therefore, I worked hard for what I was most passionate about: school and karate.
I quickly became a top student in my English-as-a-second-language class and soon graduated out of it. I was the president of my high school’s Spanish Honor Society and became a member of the National Honor Society. I stayed on the A Honor Roll, received a high score on the SAT and graduated at the top of my class. I also won second place in the International Karate Competition.
I decided that nothing — not living on my own, working six days a week, sleeping only 2-3 hours a night, struggling with the language barrier, being undocumented or being away from my family — would deter me from my goals.
One day in class, Ms. Becker said we were going to look into colleges and start filling out applications. I was naive about the requirements and the process of college applications. When I looked at the application, I read Social Security number. I was shocked to realize that I could not apply to colleges because they required a Social Security number, and I did not have one. High school was going to be the end of the road for me despite my hard work. I thought about dropping out of school. After seeing Ms. Becker look at me with the hope that I would get into college, I felt that she was disappointed when I told her that I would not be able to further my education.
One day after class, I broke down in tears in front of her and said, “I am undocumented.” She looked at me and said, “No worries, we will find a way for you to attend college. You can do it.”
She made me believe in myself. I didn’t know it then, but those words were the light that I was looking for.
When I received my first scholarship, Ms. Becker and I cried. I did not let my status hold me back from my dream. She was there for me, always. She pushed me to go further in my dreams.
I think of Ms. Becker like my mom in terms of her support and guidance. I am so glad that God put her in my life. I appreciate her more than she’ll ever know. She always says that her greatest reward is seeing her students get into the college of their choice and go on to succeed in life.
Ms. Becker made me realize that there truly are selfless people in this world, willing to go out of their way to help others. I know that one day she will be rewarded for her kindness, generosity, and integrity.