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Estephania Mijangos coming out for the first time about her immigration status at a Youth Empowerment Summit in Sanford, NC.
My name is Estephania Mijangos and I am undocumented. I came to the United States in the summer of 1999 with my family in order to join my grandmother. It’s a decision that my mother has regretted many times during these last few years and that at times I have as well. At first everything was great I started school and made many friends which I love deeply even now and who i am still relatively close to even after all these years. Whenever I introduce some of them I always say how they were my first translators when I started school and how they always supported me. I think that a big part of why I learned to love school quickly here was because of them without their support I don’t know how easy my transition would have been. From the beginning I was a favorite of my teachers and I always loved to see their faces of approval at my quick development and grasp of things. I continued to excel in school and already had my life planned out. I would graduate with high grades get a few scholarships and if that still wasn’t enough I would just go to a community college while I worked to be able to move on.
My freshman year of high school I began to see just how tough things really were for someone in my position. Laws began to pass that barred undocumented students from community college but because of talks I heard about the Dream Act I decided not to worry about it. I always believed that it would get passed by the time I graduated and that my life would continue to just advance. My sophomore year I began to realize how things might not be so easy. All of my friends got their drivers permit and some were given cars by their parents it was then that I had to begin to make excuses as to why I didn’t do what was expected of me. I didn’t get my permit, then my licence, and a car. I didn’t start to look at colleges when they did or even talk about college plans. I always avoided such conversations my supposed lack of interest in my future made me look stupid and my ego made me hate my situation even more.
I stopped working as hard in school as I should have something which I deeply regret now but can’t change. I can now see that even though then I didn’t acknowledge it I was depressed. I began to make arrangements to go to school in Mexico because although I had stopped working hard I still saw what I wanted and still cared enough to try to find a way to it. All my plans were quickly slashed one after the other because of family differences or because of the violence in Mexico that made it impossible for my parents to allow me to go to a certain region. I hated it and was so cynical that by then the faces of approval the teachers made when they talked to me about an essay or when discussing novels angered me. I hated those looks and wanted them to stop when before I had worked for them.
I began to see the differences in my AP and Honors teachers toward other students. They always smiled at us and encouraged us but always stated their dislike for having to teach one non-advanced class every now and then. Every time they made these remarks I began to look around and saw that my classmates just smiled and some laughed clearly proud of being the favorites and never thinking that she was talking about other students. I was ashamed when I realized that not long before I made the same stupid faces would simply agree with what she said. I was so selfish. If they disliked students simply because they were not at the advanced level how would they treat me if I ever told them I was undocumented. Would they still invest time on me? Would they care for me and smile every time that they saw me and hugged me or would they have ignored me because to them I would have been a waste of time. I distinctly remember one day while we sat in English 12 discussing a novel when the principal walked in. The teacher finished explaining her points and then greeted the principal warmly. They talked about us and she proudly said that we were all headed off to the best universities in the country and began to point out the students that had already received their acceptance letters and mentioning the scholarships they had received. She walked around the classroom and petted us on the head as she walked by. My whole day was ruined after that. I remember that there were days I would sit in my room and just look out the window for hours not thinking about anything just staring at the trees or my dog running around then I would do my homework and go to sleep. I wonder if it would have been easier I had just allowed myself to cry.
“I am Estephania Mijangos. I am undocumented, unafraid, and unashamed. I refuse to remain in the shadows as I watch the inhumane way in which we are treated when we are equal.” #Raleigh3
When graduation arrived I didn’t take part in anything that marked the end of high school. I didn’t take the senior pictures, buy my cap and gown, or even attend my own graduation ceremony. To me graduating wasn’t an achievement or something worth celebrating because after that I had no plans or roads to follow.
The Dream Act would help change that not just for me but also for many other youth that are in the same situation. I’m twenty-one now but I think back to when I was just sixteen and the way I thought and felt and it is because of everyone that has felt the same or does now that it is important to support the Dream Act. To speak loudly about it and work as hard as possible to make sure everyone knows about it. To reach the student whose world at age eighteen is falling apart and feels like they have no one that understands their pain. The student who feels useless in their own life making decisions because someone has already decided how far they are allowed to go without once getting to know them as a person. It is for all of them that it’s important to speak out and encourage them so that hopefully they can reach the point where they can say undocumented and unafraid.
At that point they can speak up for themselves and no longer watch as others speak for them just like I did before joining the NC Dream Team. When I began to be active in NC Dream Team I didn’t want to be open about it. I was still scared but with time they helped me build my courage and gave me the strength to come out. In the team I have found a family of support and care which I wish I had always had. I’m learning to care for them more than I have for people in a long time. We face many challenges and there’s going to be many people against us but it will help us be stronger for each other and make us better human beings in the end.
Estephania Mijangos is a graduate of Lee County High in Sanford, NC. She is an active member of Brick City Dream Team.