Photo and interview by Sylvia Johnson
Being a teacher… it’s the best thing I could have chosen to do in my life. The thing I love most is seeing the kids happy, and actually being there to listen to them. Maybe they are having trouble at home, and I can be that person they come to where they feel comfortable expressing their feelings. You learn from the kids every day.
The hardest thing I’ve overcome was knowing I was undocumented. I was 15, and I had these dreams to go to college out of state. And they’re like, “No, you can’t do that right now.” So then I went to talk to my mom, and she told me, “You are undocumented. You’re not here legally.”
I wasn’t really aware of anything, and I had to do my own research. I had a lot of people tell me, “You can’t go to college. It’s not for you. It’s really expensive, you can’t afford it, and you’ll never be where you want to because you are undocumented.” Just heartbreaking for me… So my friend tells me we should go investigate at the college what I would need, and I found out you can. I registered in the fall of 2011, and I got my Associate’s in 2015.
At first, I couldn’t believe it. But once I was walking up the graduation stage, I was like, “I did it!” I am here, one step closer. Just to see my mom, my sister, my brother and my nieces shouting at me… They were super proud of me.
— Maria, 24
The New American Dreamers highlights the stories of some of the incredible Dreamers in our community. Created by photographers Sylvia Johnson and Kerry Sherck, and produced in partnership with the Santa Fe Dreamers Project, The New American Dreamers is a positive reframe of who many of the immigrants living in our community are. Their stories reflect the dreams, hopes, challenges, and ambitions that are inherent to all of us as human beings. In the context of such a toxic narrative currently being perpetuated about immigrants in this country, our goal with this project is to flip the perspective through stories of incredible Dreamers who are our friends, clients, and neighbors.
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