By Jennifer Calix Marin
I lived in Trujillo, Honduras, one of the oldest port towns on the Honduran-Caribbean coast, bathed in miles of white sand and turquoise beaches. I resided in a two-story house just a few minutes from the beach equipped with five bedrooms, a pool, a garden and I cannot go back. Honduras, although beautiful, is a dangerous place. I remember witnessing a cloud of smoke indulging in the beauty of the sun. The laughter and joy of a new day were instantly taken away and, only five years old, I cried. I was confused as to what had just happened and what that family did to have their joy be taken away in an instant, what they did to have their death justified in broad daylight.
I can't recall the events after that day but from what I have been told it was the defining moment for my family to immigrate to the United States. My father contacted my godparents, who had recently immigrated to the United States, to mail him their passports so that our family could enter the country. He only had enough money to pay for plane tickets for my mom, my sister and I. My twin brother and older brother were to stay behind and live with my aunt until she could gather enough money to bring them here. My family moved here in hopes of finding safety and prosperity. However, what we found was not opportunity but instead the struggle for survival in a one-bedroom apartment in the South Bronx, that houses all seven of us. Although our living arrangements are not the best, we make the best of our situation.
Being undocumented is a piece of my identity but it is not all-inclusive as to who I am. I am the girl who is always busy. I am extremely involved in activities from volleyball practice at seven in the morning to student government and fellowships in the afternoon, with nights full of college classes and homework. I have no time to stop; I take advantage of every opportunity presented to me because I know that my citizenship status can only render me limited if I allow it to. When a door is closed to me, I will find a way to carve out a new one. Success is not measured by how fast I accomplish my dreams, but by how many roadblocks I have come across and still managed to get through.
I grow tired of hearing myself being referred to as "alien.” As a child I thought aliens were scary, shrilled green monsters, but never though of myself as one. It ignites my passion to see scholarships say, "Must be a U.S citizen or Permanent resident,” to hear agencies say that there is nothing they can do for us.
I will not accept being denied going to college over my citizenship status. When I see the young women that reflects back at me in the mirror, I see a scholar trying to break the stereotypes that plague my ethnic community. I see myself being the change the world needs—that undocumented children can have the opportunity to accomplish and contribute more than they imagined.
The unexpected reality is that I should not be in the position, I am in today. At the age of 17, I am graduating high school with honors and sit on the Board of Directors for a multi-million dollar federal qualified health center. Society and its expectations of someone in my position poised against me, I was told I couldn't do it, so I did.