As soon as I opened the acceptance letter to the University of Georgia, I ran down to my mother and jumped on her yelling, “Lo logramos mama!” It wasn’t only a win for me, but for my entire Latinx community.
Plenty of Latinx immigrants come to America in search of the American Dream, which holds promises for many of us. For many Latinx parents, that dream includes a higher-level education for their children that they weren’t able to get because of life’s obstacles and hardships at home.
Being accepted — let alone graduating — from a predominantly white institution proves that the American Dream is possible to achieve, because against all odds, in a system that wasn’t initially designed for us, we triumphed.
Many of our parents immigrated here and worked very low-paying jobs. At many times, these jobs were labor-intensive, but regardless of the toll that these jobs took on them, they still had time to share their culture with us. Those sacrifices are the reason why Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated and why Latinx students at UGA continue to bring their culture onto campus. Although we can’t bring our Latinx community with us, we can continue to celebrate them with our accomplishments and embrace our culture while we do so.
Being a Latinx student at UGA has come with obstacles at times because many of us are first-generation students. As I arrived on campus, it seemed almost expected of me to be familiar with college like many of my peers, whose parents had shared their experiences with them.
Fortunately, in recent years we have seen an increase in higher education among our Latinx community. If you share that experience, you know that navigating an overwhelming big school with few students of your background can be very frustrating.
At first, it felt like I had no community to lean on or people to share my experiences with. As I ventured out, I found my Latinx community through the Hispanic Student Association on campus.
The HSA meetings reassured me that I wasn’t alone and there were many Latinx students just like me trying to create their community.
HSA has provided that safe space for hundreds of our members. HSA has been able to promote education among our students and promote our different cultures. Slowly but surely, the imposter syndrome went away, because HSA helped me discover the confidence that had been hiding within myself.
As I have come to be comfortable at UGA, I have also come to understand the privilege I have that some students in the Latinx community don’t.
The University System of Georgia’s policy manual has a clause barring students who cannot verify proof of legal residence from enrolling in its schools, including UGA. Many undocumented students have lived most of their lives in the United States. They have attended the same public schools and received the same education as any other admitted UGA student.
These students continue to face uncertainty, as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival applications may no longer be accepted after a July 2021 federal judge in Texas declared DACA an “illegal” federal program.
Not only are DACA recipients effectively barred from enrolling at UGA and other schools, but they are also ineligible for federal student aid at all colleges. Over 20,000 DACA recipients live in Georgia, according to the American Immigration Council. Although the university is controlled by the USG Board of Regents, university faculties have the power to influence their decisions by making suggestions that represent the student body.
In past years, protesting has shown effectiveness by changing policies made by the BOR. Therefore, during this Hispanic Heritage Month, it is important to not only recognize the culture, but also help create change that benefits the whole Latinx community in the struggle to pursue a college education.