Favorite Cultural Traditions

Chicas share their favorite cultural tradition. 

“My favorite Mexican culture tradition is the food. Which is not exactly a tradition, but it’s the best thing ever.

Mexican food is great! What I love the most about it is how there’s a classic dish that we all love at every family gathering. This is what makes me feel happy, not only for enjoying the food, but also because of what it means. After years and years of trying different types of food, nothing tastes as good as Mexican food to me. I always go back to tacos (the real ones), to enchiladas, mole or whatever is on the table.

Mexican food makes me proud because it is recognized everywhere in the world. This food is from where I belong. Mexican food is best prepared in my home country and, even if someday I get to be far from home, I’ll always remember my family and my hometown because of it.” – Fandi Zapien, 19


“My grandmother has always been devoted to La Virgen de Guadalupe. Since we were young she taught us her story, her prayers and how much faith she had in her.

I remember loving when December 12 would come around. Buñuelos, calientitos, champurrado, and posole were some of the food items that were never missing. My favorite part, of course, were the matachines guadalupanos, dancers that would move to the beat of the drums. They would make  so much noise with their colorful attires with every step they took. Also, they would dance in front of a statue of La Virgen de Guadalupe, decorated with flowers and twinkly lights, and would carry her with so much love and care and would dance for her and in her honor. Then, these men dressed in black and with very peculiar masks would dance around, play tricks on people and try to distract the dancers with no success. My mother would tell me it was all part of the performance and it would reassure everyone’s faith.

I also loved how the whole neighborhood would gather around. After the dancers performed they were invited to eat with us. We would serve them and everyone would eat together all the delicious food my grandmother and her vecinas cooked all day long.

At that age I only understood that it was a religious tradition. Something my grandmother, tías, mom, and everyone I knew, had so much faith in. When I grew up I learned more about it. Why people dance for her, why they continue to have faith in her and her whole story, which many don’t know goes way back to when her name was actually Tonantzin. I was so glad to find out that this was something that connected us to our indigenous roots, something I’ve always loved, and it only made me love this day and her story even more.

Now it is my favorite tradition. To me it is more than a religious ceremony or event. It is about family traditions, cultural values and indigenous roots. Things I believe one should never forget.” – Itzel Barraza, 24


“My favorite cultural tradition is September 16. I love Mexican food, so I really enjoy this celebration, as well as the dances. I think that this celebration makes people who are far from Mexico become close with their beloved country. The food is so delicious! I love the taquitos, enchiladas, churros, entomatadas, the beverages like limonada, jamaica. GOD! I can go over everything. I really enjoy that people dress as charros and adelitas. I mean, what other cultural tradition can be better than this one? If I were far from my Mexico, this would be the tradition that I would celebrate to get close to my culture. Mexico has many rich and colorful cultural traditions that make it unique and special.” – Ariadne Venegas, 23


“My favorite part about my culture is definitely the food. It’s what makes me, me. I love it, I worship it! (not really) but it is awesome! The Enchiladas, the tacos, tostadas, the spiciness, flautas, guacamole, and everything in between! When I think of the food, my face transforms into the emoji with the heart eyes and a smile!– Polet Espinoza, 23

Hispanic Heritage Month Video

This Hispanic Heritage Month, Latinitas show off their cultural pride, talk about their heritage and share their culture vision board describing what makes up their culture. Check out the videos created by Latinitas below. This video series is sponsored by Sprint.hhm-latinitas-videos


Benefits of Community College

College Chica, 2013

College Chica, 2013

Towards the end of my sophomore year, I began the process to enroll into Austin Community College as an Early College Start student. When I began my junior year of high school, I started the year enrolled in Composition 1301 and U.S. History 1301, basic college freshman courses. The second semester I was enrolled in college sophomore courses and during my senior year, I earned enough credit hours to be in sophomore standing when I enroll as a full time college student this upcoming fall.

Without community colleges offering these programs, a lot of low-income students would have to spend an extra year that they cannot afford in higher education. Because of my sophomore standing, I will be able to double major and still graduate within four years.

While high school students like to boast about being enrolled as Early College Start students when they are juniors, come senior year they look down on the same community college that offered them opportunities and gave them the necessary tools to succeed in the first place.

Many of my peers whom also took college level classes with me scoffed at the notion of enrolling full time in community college post graduation, saying that community colleges are too “easy” and only for slackers. It’s funny how things change – I don’t recall our community college classes being easy at all. In fact, as a top Advanced Placement student, I struggled to make my way into an A in all of my dual enrollment classes.

Community colleges shouldn’t be looked down on because they’re an equalizer. Community colleges open so many doors for low-income students, especially, when it comes to cost. I have so many friends who could have gone to the University of Texas at Austin or A&M but opted instead for Austin Community College because of little to no cost.

Community college, for many, is the smartest choice anyone can make and I will always be grateful for the opportunities it offered me. Without Austin Community College, I wouldn’t be about to enroll in Texas State on a near-full ride as a double major while pursuing a teaching certificate and an interpreter’s license. It simply wouldn’t have been possible at all.

Attending community college isn’t something to be ashamed of. You’re furthering your education and that’s all that matters in the end.

Mastering the English Language


These Latinas from El Paso, Texas and Juarez, Mexico share the problems they encountered during the process of mastering the English language. From not having enough time to practice speaking and/or writing English in school to lacking confidence, learning a new language is incredibly challenging with a lot of obstacles.

Grammar & Finding Ways to Practice: Claudia and Edith
“Learning English at first was intimidating to me, especially because you have to think in both languages when speaking and sometimes you have to translate the things you are going to say first, and then you tell them to people. This was the greatest and worst challenge I had to face when learning English,” said Claudia Romero, 19. She adds that practicing her English skills at her elementary school helped her immensely.

“I started dominating English by the time I was eight years old. I had a bit of a problem with fluency at certain points of my learning process, but there is nothing that practice wouldn’t take away,” she said.

While Claudia was able to practice to better her language skills, Edith de la Torre, 18, had a more difficult experience. Edith studied at a bilingual school in Juarez, but lived with a complete Spanish environment both at home and sometimes in school.

“[When I was learning English], homework wasn’t enough. I realized it was just some checklist of the various topics and after those ‘to-do’ lists we didn’t really go over the chapters again, so this was useless for me.”

For Edith, she learned English through music and movies. “For my own methods of practicing, I had to help myself through music on the radio or by changing the language at the movies I saw at home. I still having problems with grammar and writing, but at least the part of vocabulary I wanted to dominate is done.”

Being a Translator: Glenda
“I was born in-between the two languages because all of my mom’s family talks in Spanish and all the members from my dad’s family talk in English. It was a little chaotic once family got reunited sometimes, but I don’t think I had a first language; I was bilingual because of this feature in my family,” Glenda Cobos said. She shares that she was aware of the differences inside her families’ cultures, and, because of these problems, she always tried to bring her family together despite cultural differences.

“I wanted both of my families to be able to interact with each other without problems of communication, so this is why I had to be the translator of the family (for both sides),” said Glenda.

“I don’t think there are people who talk 100% of either language at the place we live in right now,” said Glenda, referring to the border of Juarez-El Paso.

Cultural and linguistic differences being the main problem for Glenda, time and patience towards her family were the key in overcoming this challenge. “It was hard in the beginning,” she said, “but you get used to it.”

Lacking Confidence & Always Questioning Yourself: Edith
“I still find myself in situations where I am talking to a native speaker and I am not sure if what I said is correct. I have the habit of asking my classmates in my English class about some words or how to write certain things. This is because I still don’t have enough confidence in myself because I realize I am still learning, and I prefer to ask instead of keeping the doubt alive,” said Edith.

Being called “pocha”: Claudia and Irely 
Pocho/a is a derogatory term used to refer to someone, specifically an “Americanized” Mexican, who is trying to “act white.” “Acting white” can mean several things — from dressing to speaking “English,” this term is meant to question your cultural heritage.

“People who use this word are ignorant because they don’t know the struggle of having to learn another language. Instead of criticizing us they should admire us because we want to speak fluently in both languages,” said Claudia Romero.

To deal with these critics, Irely Lara chooses to ignore them. “We should stop criticizing upon others firstly. Then, if we ever get criticized for saying one word in English when talking in Spanish, just ignore them. Any person talks the way they want so it’s ok to be like that,” said Irely, who was constantly shifting schools between communities in El Paso and Juarez.

“I practically grew up between El Paso and Juarez communities, so I was constantly speaking both languages yet people around me called me pocha. It didn’t really make any sound in me.” For Irely, the safest choice was not to pay attention, and her choice surprisingly worked for her.

Whether you are learning English for the first time or are trying to improve your English language skills, it takes time and effort. Everyone’s journey is different, but, as long as you preserver, you will get the results that you want.

Latina Beat: Speaking Kriol

Butterfly logoA brief explanation of my culture background: My Spanish-speaking paternal grandparents are originally from Mexico. My maternal grandmother, also originally from Mexico, spoke Yucatec Mayan and Spanish. My maternal grandfather was born in China and spoke Cantonese. My paternal grandparents gave birth to my father in Belize, and my father and his brothers were raised in Belize by my great-grandmother who was also Mayan, but spoke Spanish to my father and uncles. My mother was raised in Belize as well and grew up speaking English, Spanish, Mayan, Cantonese and Kriol. Kriol is the most popular language in Belize. It’s sort of a broken English dialect spoken with a thick Caribbean accent. My father used to speak Kriol, but he is now only fluent in Spanish and English.

Whew. I hope you got that.

Growing up in a multicultural family, I celebrated a lot of holidays, including traditional American holidays like Thanksgiving and Fourth of July. I celebrate Christmas, Easter, and Good Friday every year because my mother is Catholic. I also celebrate Mexican holidays like Cinco de Maya and Dia De Los Muertos, and I visit Belize every couple of years to celebrate the country’s Independence Day on September 21. And of course, I celebrate Chinese New Years, too!

However, there were some downsides. I was picked on in school for speaking odd. I spoke mostly Kriol at home, but I also spoke English and Spanish, and the languages sort of got mixed up in me. Instead of saying “three” I would say “tree” or instead of saying “thumb” I would say “tum” and I never knew native English speakers can distinguish simple mistakes. It didn’t help that my Asian features are most prominent. And the problem wasn’t just with my friends at school. When I went to Belize, my Belizean family made fun of me for speaking too “American.”  And my Spanish-speaking family always complain about how I cannot roll my r’s properly and that I speak Spanish like a gringa, but my accent was definitely not “white,” it was Caribbean. For a long time, I felt like I wasn’t fluent in any language.

As you can see, it’s a mess.

However, now I’ve learned that the different cultures that are a part of me is what makes me uniquely beautiful. ‘Til this day, Kriol is still the language I’m most comfortable speaking. I do not care what people think about my accent because I know I can speak English, Spanish, and Kriol – just in my own way. And that’s okay.

Casting My First Ballot



On October 31, 2012 I voted for the very first time. I was so excited I chose to do it the long way, though I technically cast a straight ballot; I even saved the neat little sticker with the Presidential seal and the year on it. I knew that the fact that I was able to vote at all was thanks to brave women who just under a century ago fought with everything they had for the right, as well as men and women who fought for minorities to be able to vote. People in other countries would give anything to do what I was doing at that moment. Even some former students and younger friends were itching to get to polls, but they will have to wait until the next election.

Still excited, thankful, and hopeful, I walked out of the voting center feeling quite patriotic. I was with a friend so we went out for a snack and talked, as usual. Our conversation inevitably went back to the polls as we were both first time voters; we wondered how people, especially women and minorities, would chose not to vote. Personally, I was so consumed with this election that my mom would tease me saying how I should become one of the pundits on TV making their predictions and analyzing the campaigns.  As I mentioned, I was excited to be doing my civic duty as an American citizen. After all, there were so many issues at stake starting from the economy to social policies. How could opinionated people not make their voices heard? As one of my favorite presidents, Franklin D. Roosevelt once said, “Nobody will ever deprive the American people of the right to vote except the American people themselves and the only way they could do this is by not voting.” As my friend and I chatted, we realized one reason why people wouldn’t vote was common.

The biggest reason that people we knew weren’t going to vote was because they believed their vote didn’t matter, or that the candidates were corrupt no matter which party they belong to. For example, my mom did not vote until the 2008 election, and only because I had to sort of guilt her into going. (I told her that not only did her future matter, but mine did too.) My dad on the other hand, still won’t vote because he can’t stand politics and doesn’t think his vote truly counts,. Likewise, my maternal grandma, who became a citizen when she was about my age, never voted either because she believes even the best politician is crooked.

My friend and I reasoned that while it is true that there are many “crooked” politicians out there, it is not true that our votes do not matter. The only way we can keep dishonest or greedy people from becoming leaders is to speak up. Educate ourselves about the candidates and pick the one that has the best intentions for our respective communities. Another friend of mine put it beautifully when he said “A good politician tries to make today better; a great politician tries to make tomorrow better too.” Because of this, I was excited and proud to cast my ballot for the first time that day and will be equally proud to cast it in the next elections. And you should, too!

Latinas Contra el Bullying

November 15, 2015, Facebook user Miguel Marquize Howell posted a video with the caption, “OK that was a grown up move… Kids was getting bullied and ragged on about his shoes…. so another student bought him some Lebron’s the next day…💯💯💯.” 180,104 likes and 229,624 shares later this video continues to go viral. But why?

According to “Latina Teen Suicide and Bullying,” published in the Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences, bullying is an issue prevalent across many different races and even across countries. In a sense, bullying is a universal problem, but the effects of bullying seem to take a different toll on Latinas. “Compared to national trends, [the] state-wide data of Latina adolescents, predominantly of Mexican descent, [indicated] higher than national rates of suicide ideation, plans, and attempts.”

While Latinas had higher rates of suicide attempts, which were associated with being victims of bullying, they also had higher rates of plans and ideation, which were associated with being the actual bully. Con cuidado chica; don’t let this be you, being a bully is nothing to be proud of.

As a Latina, however, you may also be susceptible to different kinds of bullying.

Some Latinas are fortunate enough to have been raised speaking two languages, the pronunciation may not always be perfect, pero le haces el intento, but you try. People, however, may try and use this against you. You either speak too much English, or speak it too well, and are shamed for being white-washed. Or you speak with too thick of a Spanish accent, and then are made fun of or judged. Just take for example Vanessa Ruiz, a news anchor, who was torn to pieces by the media for pronouncing Spanish words in Español.

What You Wear

Latinas also have to be really careful of their attire. You can’t wear hoops and dark lipstick simultaneously, or you are automatically perceived as a chola. For some this can be a “fashion statement,” but for others it can be seen as a “negative” portrayal of culture.

Color of Your Skin 

Shades of skin are also an attribute Latinas are critiqued on. “One day, I stayed out too late in the sun and when I came back inside my Abuela flipped. ‘Pareces pan tostado,’ she said. There was a look of horror on her face. I don’t think it was so much so because I was tan. But because now the world could see it,”  says  Daniela, 19.

Standing Up Contra Los Bullies

While Latinas may experience bullying in different ways than others, the experience of being bullied is not unique to Latinas alone. As members of society, we must aim for improvement of our own conditions as well as the conditions of those around us. Bullying may be an issue that will be around for years to come, but you, chica, can make a difference.

Some steps to combating bullying include:

  • Don’t participate in bullying! Consider your actions and the feelings of others during social interactions.
  • Be able to recognize bullying. If you see it, stop it. Speak up and act against it. More often than not, the bully is able to act up because she feels that no one will stop her. But if someone calls attention to her actions the odds of her continuing them will diminish.
  • But most importantly, if you are being bullied, don’t let them get to you, chica. Whatever the reason be for their actions, you are perfect and you should be proud.

Tu voz es poder. Your voice is power, and with it you can build this world up or tear it down. But how awesome is it to know that you alone can do good in this world, that by simply speaking up for others or refusing to act in a hurtful manner, you can shine a light on a hurting soul or even save a life. You never know.

friends hug

What I Learned After High School


There are many things I wish I knew during high school. From one chica to another, here are four things that will make life a little easier in the future:

Don’t take things too seriously

Take serious things seriously and the rest, let it roll. If it’s just a school assignment, a test or a simple homework, do it and don’t stress too much about it, there are more important things to stress about in life. If your friend hasn’t talked to you in a day it’s not because he/she hates you, maybe they’re busy. Don’t get your head too into things that can be easily solved. I’m not saying you should not care about school or your friends, because they’re really important things. But instead, be responsible and get things done, without them taking all the time and importance of your life.

Friends come and go, but the real ones will stay forever

You will always have problems with fake friends, they’ll talk behind you back, create silly gossip, mistreat you and do terrible things. But thanks to those experiences you learn who your real friends are. Your real friends will stay with you through thick and thin and will be there for you when you need them. Don’t get discouraged if you realize that many of the people around you are not true to you, it happens at every stage of our lives. The good thing is to realize it soon so you wont get hurt. Be careful with who you trust. And always be thankful and appreciate the people in your life.

It’s not the end of the world

Even if it feels like that, it´s not. You´re just going through a rough patch in your life, it gets dark for a reason, and you don´t see the light at the end of the road. It feels like your pain doesn´t get to an end. But it gets better, there´s always something better waiting for you after everything. Don´t overthink what happens to you. Every single memory and person will leave something in your life, make sure it´s something good. We’ve all been in situations where it all gets tough and at the end, everything  gets better.

Don’t give up

Work hard for whatever you want in life. Work for your dreams. If you feel depressed and sad because you feel like you’re not trying hard enough, don’t get discouraged! It happens all the time, the thing is to get up and try again. Dreams and things that are worth it don’t come easy. The best that you can do is be patient and never give up. Because in the end it’ll be worth it. When you see what you’ve achieved, you won’t remember or care about how much it took you to get there.

Whether you want to be an actress, singer, doctor, an astronaut, a teacher, etc.  you can make it! Everything is possible.

Sometimes, you and your friends will fall into a routine, you guys will be hanging out at the same places and when you suggest something new, they may reject it. But if you want to do it, do it! Get more friends that share your interests, go out, explore while you can, in high school you’re way more free than you’ll be in college or at work. Take advantage of all the time you have. Because in a few years you may be worrying about a lot of things and you won’t have time to try new things. Your older self will be grateful to you.

Life Lessons from Mamá

For Mother’s Day we asked a group of chicas about their relationships with their mamas. From the interviews we found six important lessons these chicas have learned from their mom.

Be confident
As daughters, we are constantly worried about our physical appearance and confidence in ourselves, which is why many of us get nervous during dates or even at school presentations; many Latinas ask their moms for advice on this topics, especially because many of us don’t know how to raise our self esteem.

“One important thing my mother always tells me is to never make myself less than the other people; I do not have to lower my head in front of problems, I have to always look directly to them and confront them with attitude, ” says Leticia Ugarte, 18.

Similarly, Montserrat Dominguez, 13, defines herself as a nervous person and has received strong advice from her mom. “I think since I am a girl, she is always trying to mold me and she tells me to be confident about myself and to value myself,” says Dominguez.

Be grateful and appreciate what you have
“My mom has had a very difficult life and she teaches me to value mine since I have had it easy in comparison with her; I remind myself of this though every time I want to complain about something,” says Jazmin Herrera, 18.

“I can notice how my mom lives and makes a lot of sacrifices just for me to succeed. All of that devotion she gives to me, makes me repay her with succeeding at all the things that motivate me,” says America Alvillar, 19.

Be aware of responsibilities
“Being responsible is the most important thing my mom has taught me. She always tells me there is time for everything. For example, when she was studying at college, if she knew she was going out with her friends at the weekend and she knew she was coming late, she either do her homework before spending time with her friends or she would do it afterwards, even if she came at 3:00 am in the morning, she kept studying or doing whatever she had to do,” says Michelle Hidalgo, 18.

Focus on education
“Back at home, we sometimes laugh at my mom because she used to be the nerd of her classroom, she didn’t have any friends at all (she used to sit next to her teacher); and we commonly laugh at her at dinner table but she always says those things doesn’t matter as much as her education and that she is very proud of who she has become thanks to those habits of studying.  I realize now that because of those habits, because of that attitude during her entire academic career, that we are where we are because of that. Without those qualities, we wouldn’t be where we are now, we wouldn’t live in the house that we live now, maybe I wouldn’t be studying where I study. She did a lot of effort and didn’t care about what other people said about her. That’s what I admire the most in my mom,” shares Ugarte.

“You have to see the positive side on every negative stuff you are going through. Learn how to focus on the bright side of your problem, or even at the stuff you don’t like (a class, a certain person that you don’t get along with, etc.),”  says says Dominguez.

Never give up
We can learn a lot from our moms by just listening to their experiences, like Herrera says: “What I have learned from my mom’s experiences is to never give up. My mom is not the smartest person but has gotten 90% scholarships and she is currently studying for her PhD; I mean, even though she is not the best at something, she works for it and tries so hard that she ends up being one of the best.” Marlyn Garcia, Jazmin’s mom, shares that  “[Jazmin] is always telling me to move forward, no matter where you come from, you can achieve great things. ”

Be independent
“My mom has always told me to be independent, that I don’t need anyone to succeed at something. Back in my childhood, she used to make me do the laundry if I wanted to go out with my friends. That was the biggest responsibility I had in my house and that taught me to be clean for reunions, school, and pretty much elsewhere. She taught me responsibility and sacrifices if I wanted something, ” says Evelyn Renteria, 18.

“What I remember most of my mom is how she solves things, she is always very concrete, direct, she goes directly to her point at making an argument and, since I am a daily witness of that, I get to learn how to solve my own stuff too,” shares Alvillar.

While some chicas in this article did not view their mom as their best friend, there was still a strong connection and relationship with her. For Alvillar, her mom is her BFF.

“I see her basically as my best friend because, for me, one good friend is always by your side, which is not always okay, meanwhile a best friend says to you when you are stepping out of line or tells you how things really are, directly facing to you and telling you the truth. And of course, what a best person for that task than your mother, she is the one person that is going to tell you that you are wrong, that you’re not always right. A best friend also teaches you new things you haven’t notice or learned and at the time a best friend is telling you those stuff in which she thinks you are wrong, you are also learning to do those things right and by disagreements you get to learn how to do it. What a best person than your mom for it,” shares Alvillar.

This Mother’s Day be sure to hug your mama, tell her you love her, and cherish her wisdom.

I am a DREAMer Activist

Written by Maria Esquinca dreamers-500x280-crop-v08

When Viviana Sanchez was five-years-old, she got on a plane with her mother and three-year-old-brother. They flew past the vast ocean, past paradise, and left Guayaquil behind, a city on the coast of Ecuador, until they arrived in N.Y.

Sanchez, now 22-years-old and a senior psychology major at York College, City University of New York, says she has a very vivid memory of the day she left Ecuador. She still remembers her mom asking her if she was excited to see her father, who had already been living in the U.S. for over a year.

“My father was forced to come here, he had to come to a different country not knowing the language, not knowing anything,” Sanchez said. “He always tells me this story, how the first time that he came here he was all alone and nobody had come to pick him up. It was very hard for him.”

Sanchez says her parents immigrated to the U.S. because they couldn’t find a job in Ecuador. They came to the U.S. with tourist visas, but eventually they expired.

According to the Pew Research Center, as of 2014, there were 11.3 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S., and a majority of them entered the country without valid documents or arrived with valid visas but stayed past the expiration.

Because Sanchez was a minor when she immigrated into the U.S., she is considered a DREAMer under Deferred Action Against Childhood Arrival, a policy announced by President Barack Obama in 2012.

DACA allows the the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to use prosecutorial discretion to not deport undocumented youth. Immigrants who came to the U.S before their 16th birthday, and meet other guidelines, have temporary permission to stay in the U.S. and not be deported. It is not considered legal status like a visa or a permanent resident card, but they are authorized to work.

In 2014, Obama expanded DACA, however federal district court in Texas issued an expansion that temporarily placed the expanded DACA program on hold.

“I wanted to go get my passport renewed with my family so we could see if I could purchase tickets and just go back to Ecuador, which I don’t know nothing about,” Sanchez says. “As soon as I got back home and I took out my passport I turned on the news… it was an emotional experience because it was on that day, that I felt like leaving the country, that DACA was announced.”

Before DACA, Sanchez could not find a job and struggled to pay for school. Because of her status, she does not qualify for financial aid.

“I was offered like a scholarship mid-junior year,” she said.

“I remember coming home and I told my parents ‘hey I was offered a scholarship because I’m a good student in school,’ and they were like you can’t apply (to college) because you don’t have a social security number.”

It was that same year that she experienced her first instance of discrimination. Sanchez was interning at a hospital in New York for high school credit. She was placed in an HIV prevention unit, but she didn’t know that they were going to ask her for paperwork.

By this time, Sanchez says she knew she didn’t have a social security number, but she didn’t know she was considered “illegal.”

“I remember the administrator just looking at me and giving me a dirty look, and she was like ‘are you an illegal?’” Sanchez said.

“I felt like crying, I didn’t know how to respond. At the time I didn’t know my rights or anything, they’re not supposed to be interrogating you about your status when you’re in school. I know that now.”

Sanchez thought she wouldn’t be able to go to college; however, after encouragement from her parents, Sanchez applied and was able to pay with the help of her parents. The number of classes she could take would fluctuate based on what she could afford.

“It was really frustrating. I was forced to only take two classes (freshmen year). I had to drop my other classes because my parents were like ‘no, that’s too much money.”

A separate semester one of her mentors fundraised money to pay her classes. After DACA, she got a job and also helped pay for her education. This semester, her education is being funded through a scholarship.

While in college, Sanchez became highly involved in the immigration activism community. She joined the New York State Youth Leadership Council, a non-profit led by and aimed at creating opportunities for undocumented youth. She is also joined Make the Road New York, an organization that aims to build Latino and working class communities through organizing, among other things. Currently, Make the Road NY, is advocating for the New York DREAM act, which would allow DREAMers that meet in-state requirements to be eligible for state financial aid and scholarships.

Because of her involvement with Make the Road NY, one of her mentors encouraged her to apply for the Adobe Youth Voices National Audio/ Story telling competition in 2012. She was one of the finalists. In her submission, an audio story, she told her immigration story.

“A lot of people are still very scared to tell their stories, and I was one of them for a very long time,” she said.

“We need to tell our stories, not only for ourselves and our families, but for people to understand our struggles and who we are. That we are not criminals, that we are not here to hurt anyone, that we work very hard.”

She, alongside 34 other DREAMers, was also featured on the cover of Time Magazine, with Jose Antonio Vargas, Filipino journalist, filmmaker and immigration rights activist.

“And that’s how my activism started,” Sanchez said.

Currently, Sanchez is still finishing up her final year in college and advocating, because the “struggle continues.”

“I’m a lot of things: I’m a student, I’m someone’s daughter, I’m someone’s sister…I’m a dreamer,” Sanchez adds.