I have always longed to teach. When former Secretary of Education John King Jr. spoke at Georgetown on Oct. 3 and, in his remarks, called on the audience to be “champions of equity and opportunity,” this idea resonated deeply with me.

Still, as a low-income and first-generation college student without documentation, I could not help but think about the obstacles that I currently face in attempting to take on King’s calling. The most salient of these obstacles is the uncertainty that surrounds my ability to teach after Georgetown, a result of my immigration status.

Last month, President Donald Trump’s administration decided to rescind former President Barack Obama’s 2012 administrative program, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which provided deferral for deportation and work authorization to those who came to this country before the age of 16 and who fulfilled certain requirements.

Without DACA protections, I am unsure if I will be able to fulfill my desire to teach. Without a work permit, I do not have any legal access to the careers in the United States that my peers do.

Listening to King’s call to action only reaffirmed my desire to return to my community and teach, in particular as I thought about the difference that my teachers have made in my life.

At home in California, my single mom worked tirelessly as a dishwasher at a local restaurant to support me and my siblings. As a result, she often could not provide the support and guidance that I needed to get through high school — it was not that she did not want to but rather that she had to focus on providing the necessities for us to live day to day.

She also did not have the knowledge to navigate our school system. After third grade, she could no longer help me with math, let alone with reading.

One of my teachers, Mrs. Cortez — who led a group for English learners I participated in during elementary school — offered me the guidance and support that I lacked at home. In high school, I volunteered in her classroom, and she provided me with key information about the college application process.

Most importantly, she held me accountable for my grades. I knew that each Saturday, she would ask me how I was doing in school. I wanted to have a positive report to deliver; it would not be acceptable otherwise.

Mrs. Cortez believed in my potential. She both challenged and supported me through robust conversations and by filling in the gaps of information that I did not have at home because of my family’s circumstances.

Now that I am at Georgetown, Mrs. Cortez continues to support me in any way she can. Not only did she, along with her husband and daughter, move me in to campus at the start of my first year, but she has also set aside time to FaceTime with me every Sunday. I update her on school and my life, and she listens attentively.

Mrs. Cortez has been my champion of equity and opportunity.

This profound relationship with Mrs. Cortez oriented me toward a path of serving and supporting students. For the past two summers, I have had the tremendous opportunity to serve as a teaching fellow for Breakthrough San Juan Capistrano, an educational nonprofit in San Juan Capistrano, Calif., that seeks to provide support and enrichment for highly motivated, low-income students.

I first taught eighth grade English, where I challenged my students through a rigorous curriculum, including an analysis of John Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men.” Last summer, I taught college skills and had the opportunity to guide rising ninth grade students on a path toward college by equipping them with the necessary skills to succeed in high school.

Each day of these summers, I realized how much I yearned to teach. I saw the difference I was making in the lives of my students.

Now, however, such desire to teach — to take on King’s call to action and become a champion of equity and opportunity, just as Mrs. Cortez did for me — is in jeopardy due to federal immigration policies.

It is my hope that legislation — in particular, a clean Dream Act, or one without brutal enforcement measures — comes to fruition. This bill would provide young people with a path to citizenship, allowing us to follow our professional aspirations to a greater extent than DACA did, since it would not require recipients to renew their status after two years.

Join me in advocating for this policy. Contact your members of Congress, and demand a permanent solution for those of us who are being pushed back into the shadows. I yearn to be a champion of equity and opportunity, but I need your allyship.

Luis Gonzalez is a junior in the College. He is co-president of Stride for College, a mentoring program on campus that seeks to increase college access to high school students at Bell Multicultural High School.

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2 Comments

  1. Lisa Solomon says:

    Luis moved my your story as always. You are a champion of equity and change and inspire us as educators to want to do more and help more.

  2. We are proud of your success. Keep working hard. You make us proud.

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