Diary of a DREAMer

Dream Act Activists

Name: Edilsa Lopez

Age: 21

Hometown: Born in Guatemala

There’s nothing ordinary about Edilsa Lopez. An accomplished and heavily involved college student, Edilsa has had to endure struggles that few college students face. Arriving undocumented to the U.S at the age of 12 from her native country Guatemala, Edilsa learned a new language and adapted to the American lifestyle successfully. However, her immigration status is a barrier toward her goals of becoming a professional woman who will be able to help her community, her family and the world that we live in. The DREAM act, a piece of legislation that would allow undocumented youth in the U.S. to gain citizenship, is a ray of hope towards her goals. Today, she continues to work hard in making her DREAM a reality. Here are a few things that I learned from this DREAMer.

What school do you go to? Where do you work?
I attend the University of Texas at Austin. I work as a photographer (wedding, portrait, events, etc.) and sometimes during the breaks I work at restaurants or any kind of jobs out there.

What are you majoring in at school? Why or how did you choose your major?
I am currently majoring in Economics and International Relations & Global Studies with a Business Administration minor. I chose my major because I would like to work one day for the United Nations to promote peace, or the International Monetary Fund, or the World Trade organization. Moreover, economics interests me. I would like to evaluate and analyze why some countries are less developed than others, and how we can help less developed countries to improve economically. Moreover, I would love to travel and promote education among countries. Therefore, it is the reason why I am majoring in Economics and IRG.

What has been your biggest accomplishment so far?
My biggest accomplishment has been being accepted to college. I am the first person in many of my family generations to be the first one to graduate and attend high school, and now to attend college. Therefore, I am really proud to be in college right now, and be an example to my siblings. Also, because I was able to exceed expectations since a lot of my family members back in Guatemala, always thought I was going to marry at the age of 16.

What student organizations are you involved in and what do you do?
At college I am really involved. I am:
•Vice-President of University Leadership Initiative – an organization that advocates for undocumented students, the DREAM Act, and in-state tuition
•Technology Director of the UT Student Volunteer Executive Board – I am in the executive board of SVB, which is an umbrella organization with about 12 service programs
•Director of Public Relations of Engineers Without Borders Greater Austin Chapter – I organize the newsletter, and support current Engineering projects currently being implemented in Mexico, and Panama
•Founding Leadership Board for the UT Service Scholars Program – I am one of the founders of the UT Service – Scholars program, a program that encourages UT students to do service in their communities. We just had our first year induction ceremony. Students are required to do 300 hours of service by the time they graduate.
•Public Relations Chair of the Hispanic Business Student Association – I am responsible of promoting HBSA events, editing videos, flyers, or anything related to Public Relations for all HBSA events.
•Liberal Arts Undergraduate Chapter for Research, Editorial Board Reviewer – I am a reviewer for Honor student’s thesis and graduate student research papers, to be published in a research journal.

What do you like to do when you’re not in school or working?
When I am not in school, or I am not working, I like to go to church, or volunteer. I volunteer at different places, or just like to hang out with friends. I also do photography as a hobby and as a job, so I love photo shooting.

What are some hardships you have encountered?
At the age of 7, my parent abandoned me and my siblings. I raised my siblings alone. At 12, I was kidnapped to the United States, was left in a desert for 5 days, and survived those 5 days with no water or food, and was injured. I was kidnapped again and then I was taken into a house and in that house I escaped. A plethora of events happened during that time. When I arrived in Houston, I did not have much help, or support. My aunt where I was living had to leave the country, and I was left homeless. Fortunately, after a few days I found a place to live with some friends. Ever since then, I support myself financially, support my siblings in Guatemala, my mother (since I found her) and a sister who is currently in the United States. I stay with friends or at my church during school breaks when I have nowhere to go. Currently, I am living the most difficult or hard time of my life because of the many anti-immigrant bills being filed in the Texas Legislation. I am not sure if I will be back to college next year, since I also do not have money.

Who are your role models or people that you look up to?
First, because I am a very spiritual person, I really look up to Jesus. He is my motivation to continue working hard no matter the situation. My other role models are my siblings, who are so far away from me, but they really motivate me. Because every time I think about them, I work harder for them. Also, my mother, even though she left us, but when she was with us she was a very hard working person. I really understand her because she suffered a lot. I want to one day be able to give her what she never had and make her really happy. Also, my church pastor, because he is a very accomplished person, yet very humble.

What are you dreams? What do you hope to accomplish in your lifetime?
There are a lot of DREAMs I have. One is to be able to one day be reunited with my family, my little sister, and my brother because I miss them so much and I cannot see them. I miss my little sister. I also want to be with my mother, because I miss her too and I want to make her happy. Another dream is to be able to graduate from college and be able to work. But this dream comes with another dream, and that is making the DREAM Act a reality. I am working with different organizations to be able to make that into a reality, and I am sure we will. I also want to be a professional accomplished woman, and help as many people as possible, either through mentoring, scholarships, helping them to pay for college, or anything. I hope to one day establish a non-profit organization that can help many people (poor, uneducated, oppressed) etc.

What advice would you give to young girls?
The advice that I can give to students wanting to go to college is that no matter what people say about you (that you can’t do it, you will fail, you don’t have enough resources, you are undocumented, etc.), YOU CAN DO IT! You need to work hard to make your DREAMs and goals become a reality, and for that it requires effort and concentration. If you are an undocumented student, do not give up. Don’t think you cannot attend college. Stay positive, and always have your head up no matter the situation. There will be people who will be willing to help you. All you have to do is do your best.

April 2011

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