Graduating Class of 2016
Congratulations to everyone who graduated this year! Thank you for inspiring us to do the work that we do. Your degree does not validate your existence. You are worth more than a paper. But embrace it because you worked hard for it. Celebrate, for making your parents' dreams a reality. Celebrate, your actions and perseverance to get to this day. Celebrate, all those times someone told you "No" and you proved them wrong. Celebrate, that you are graduating from academic spaces that YOU made accesible to you. Keep on dreaming. Keep on thriving. You have a whole community that believes in you. Keep on dismantling borders. Keep inspiring younger generations to fight for their dreams. Keep being resilient. You are loved. Y recuerden que esto no es el final por que la lucha aún sigue!
Maria Xique, Baruch College(2013 Becari@)
Zuleima Dominguez , Borough of Manhattan Community College (2015 Becari@)
"If you can dream it, you can achieve it". It took me 4yrs to finish community college, I take pride on this because it wasn't easy!! But I'm so grateful for all the ppl that pushed me to make this happen, from my flushing HS guidance counselor, teachers, coaches, mentors and friends to my college professors and staff & The Jaime Lucero institute. Also, to my fam that in some way they motivated me! Thank y'all, this is just an step for my bachelors degree!
Irma Cruz, College of Staten Island (2013 Becari@)
Juan Carlos Mejia, College of Staten Island (2013 Becari@)
I can honestly say that my last year in school was the hardest. I had recently gotten married moved out of my house & was working 60+ hours to manage my expenses. I remember debating whether to continue or once again take a semester off to be able to pay off my tuition. With my wife also going to school & having her own tuition & expenses to worry about, we knew it was going to be hard. I remember having to wake up at 6am for work, getting out at 6pm, rushing to school still in my work clothes dirty & sweaty to try to make it to my 6:30 class not getting home till 9 or 10 at night and having to do it all over again the next day. There were times when it seemed like we weren't going to make rent but we always pulled through one way or another.
We took a chance, left it up to God and here we are, I graduated and my wife will be graduating this month as well. With the support of each other and our families, we made it.
This may be an ending, but it is also the beginning of better things to come.
Amalia Rojas, Lehman College (2014 and 2015 Becari@)
So much is racing on my mind. I remember six years ago sitting by myself during graduation- completely numb. I just wanted to go home. I remember thinking to myself that I had to try to smile not only for myself but for my peers. Except it was hard because my peers for the most part were blessed to have the support to go to school both with their family and this country- I knew struggle was in my future. I just prayed I could handle it. Tomorrow I will do my best to not fidget. While my mind is clouded with fears of what my next steps are, I am happy and proud that I won a battle that seemed impossible. I look back and know if I would have told 17 year old Amalia that she would finish school debt free- on scholarships, travel to Mexico and still write plays, she would have looked at me and cried. I want to take a moment and acknowledge those graduates who are not benefited by DACA. I want to share with you my day. I want to remember with you over and over again that this degree and this nation will never define who we are. To those with DACA, let us remember our slight privilege now and let us use it along with our new degrees to create opportunities for our fellow peers. To all those who are still struggling semester after semester to pay their tuition, I salute you and your effort to continue your education.Follow your dreams. Always. Just follow them. I will remember this for my entire life. How for six years (2 of which I dropped out) the only thing that kept me going was my passion for my craft, and my right to have a voice. so just follow your dreams.
Make art, fuck opinions, stay humble and always pay it forward. Undocumented, unafraid, unapologetic.
Angy Paola Rivera, John Jay College of Criminal Justice (2013 Becari@)
All my life I've been told I wouldn't amount to anything. Even before I was born, just because my mom was a teen and she was single. People in my church, my family, and in my neighborhood would exclude us, glance sideways at us, make comments underneath their breath and even tell me directly that I was a failure. And being undocumented tripled this. It now became systemic. I was too illegal to write a decent paper, too illegal to go to college, too illegal to even be here, to work, to get financial help, to thrive. Too foreign. Too outspoken.
Hurt by those I love and those who were suppose to care for me. I've spent the majority of my life with my walls up, swimming in pain, ready to defend myself, and fighting to prove other people wrong. Fighting to prove to them and myself that young immigrant families, that single parent households, can be just as loving and just as beautiful. My mom migrated here for me to have a better education and this is that dream realized.
When I was an incoming high school senior an administrator at CUNY John Jay College told me I was wasting my time trying to go to school there. That if I didn't have the money to pay for classes out of pocket I wouldn't be able to go to college. Part of me believed her and why wouldn't I? Who was I anyway? I was 17 and undocumented. And once I started organizing and John Jay wanted to highlight me they would tell me these harmful interactions needed to be kept a secret because they made the school look bad. Instead of striving to fix it. Without realizing that this was the first of many harmful moments that pushed me into action.
Community organizing with the New York State Youth Leadership Council changed my life. I learned about my rights and became unafraid. I spoke out for myself, received scholarships, and made friendships that will last a lifetime. This safe space helped me escape from the racism, violence, passive aggressiveness, and ignorance I experienced while trying to navigate the CUNY system. For all the times I had a teacher belittle me, for all the times I was triggered in class, I could count on them to lift me up. For when I dropped out of school because I couldn't afford it. When I was supposed to be ~ Class of 2013 ~ and couldn't. There was someone who understood.
This degree doesn't add value or validation to my experiences. It doesn't make me smarter. It doesn't make me or my family more worthy or deserving of respect and admiration. We already deserved that.
But because I know the hard work that went into this. The long nights. The tears. The constant rejection from opportunities. The fight. The dreams and hopes. To be the first in my immediate family. Because I know how meaningful this is. Here I am. In Madison Square Garden graduating from the same school that humiliated me.
It took me longer than expected. And some of my friends are already finishing a master's program. But this was my life. This was my pace. And I am worth more than this degree. I'm so proud of myself. Proud I survived an institution not designed for me. And proud of the woman I've become.
This is for us mami ♡ te amo
Vanessa Tlachi, The City College of New York(2014 Becari@)
Antonio Alarcon and Jesus Benitez, LaGuardia Community Collge
Lorena A Cariño, Queens College (2015 Becari@)
I am so happy to have finally completed college with the help of many who always believed in me more than sometimes I believed in myself. 4 years ago I was going to drop out of continuing education because knowing that I wasn't eligible for financial aid took away many opportunities I wanted, however with the help of all the support I had including my number one fan, support and hero: my mother, I decided to continue even if I wasn't sure where college would take me. I fell in love with the Queens College Campus and even though it was a far commute I was able to make it. I am so happy to have made so many friendships that have filled me with adventurous moments! I am so happy I decided to join the QC Dream Team where my life and story changed. I made a family, a support system and people that will always and forever be in my heart, you all inspired me in different ways and pushed me to believing in myself and believing that this day could come. Even after changing my major a couple of times, and thinking I would never decide, I finally did and got to enjoy a beautiful day with the people I love ♡ Today means more to me because it is not only my achievement but also my family's. This is for my parents who came to this country and wanted a better life for us, my sister who made me cry today and who will be next doing great things, and for my mother who always pushed me to be my best and never give up. As the first college graduate in my family I am proud that their sacrifices and love has given me the best gift, the opportunity to an education ♡ As of what will come next, that's another chapter that I know will be as great as this one has been ♡
Brenda Hernandez, LaGuardia Community College (2015 Becari@)
Mary Linn Hernandez, Borough of Manhattan Community College (2013 Becari@)
To donate to our scholarship fund, please contact or mail contributions to the CUNY Institute of Mexican Studies, c/o the Lehman College Foundation, Shuster Hall, Rm 318, 250 Bedford Park Blvd. West, Bronx NY 10468 (718-960-8766).
Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information and to join our efforts.