My family applies for DACA status, and when I turn five, I begin kindergarten in Tennessee – the first stop on my Dream Journey. Throughout my educational journey, my teachers believe in me, support me, encourage me and I honor their investment by working hard and never giving up. I graduate top 10 in my class. I score a 29 on the ACT. However, I am not eligible for TN Promise, TN Hope Scholarship, or other scholarships made available to my lower performing peers. I am accepted to 7 different colleges in the state of Tennessee, my home. I have had this Volunteer State for my home for over 18 years. However, as I join my classmates in our quest for colleges to continue my Dream Journey, I realize… I am ineligible for in-state tuition because I am a “Dreamer.”
I AM a dreamer… My dreams have been my driving force since I crossed the threshold of Carter Elementary School to begin Kindergarten. I have a dream to become a biochemical engineer. I have a dream to start a family and raise my children in Tennessee, instilled with the values of hard work, dedication, and perseverance that my parents instilled in me.
I am a Tennessean; I’m “All Vol!” You call me a “dreamer” while crushing my dreams. You hold them too high, out of my reach. I am informed I will be required to pay international tuition, in addition to not being eligible for any state or school scholarships. The colleges want me, but can’t provide me support. My teachers help me apply for private scholarships and grants; however, it just isn’t enough. My tuition will be $35,450 a year with only $12,000 in private scholarships and grants. My first year alone will cost $23,450; I simply can’t afford it. In state tuition is $14,250. With my $12,000 in scholarships and grants, I would be responsible for $2,250. While still a significant investment, with discipline and part-time jobs, my dream will once again be accessible and within my grasp! I stand at a crossroads: by following my dream, I can build the life of my dreams and fulfill the promise my undocumented parents had for me from the trunk of a car nearly 18 years ago, OR my name can be added to the list of those who pound their heads against the glass ceiling, frustrated that the American dream eludes them because “they” are not included.
If I am required to pay international tuition, my dream dies. Instead of reaching my potential and becoming a biochemical engineer, I will work in a factory, earning overtime to provide a substandard existence for my family. You blame me for the ills of your nation. I’m labeled “lazy,” “criminal,” and “illegal.” No human being is “illegal.” With every fiber of my being, I long to shout, “You are wrong! I am not lazy! I respect the law! I am worth your time! I love this country, and I call America my home!” America, if you want to blame someone for me and others like me not delivering return on investment, blame yourself.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. Citizens could take action. YOU could encourage legislators, their constituents, your friends and family to vote for legislation that allows me to qualify for in-state tuition. After all, I am a Tennessean. I lived in Mexico for 3 months. I have lived in Tennessee for 18 years! You have already invested over $100,000 into my K-12 education. Don’t you want a return on your investment? I am willing to work. I am willing to pay. I do not want handouts. I just want EQUITY and the OPPORTUNITY to pursue my dream!
This is the story of our Tennessee Dreamers. They have no voice. They have no choice. They were brought here as children. They don’t want to hide. They don’t want to live with the fear of being “discovered” and deported. They have applied for DACA. Their parents work for a living. They pay taxes. They are us!
Tennessee educators declare ALL means ALL. Do they mean that? Or do they mean: ALL means ALL… EXCEPT Josue and others like him?
What if one of our Dreamers:
- Finds a cure for AIDS?
- Finds a cure for Cancer?
- Saves your child’s life as a police officer?
- Becomes a teacher?
- Becomes an engineer?
- Invents something that will change your life?
Are you comfortable with limiting them? Are you willing to take that risk?
Lynnsey currently serves at Sterchi Elementary School as a K-5 TPaCK (Technology, Pedagogy, and Content Knowledge) Coach. She has worked in the Knox County School System for nine years, where she’s held multiple roles including RTI Coordinator, School-level Technology Ambassador, Certified Cognitive Coach©, TEAM Certified Evaluator and on the Leadership team. She is also a LETRS (Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling) Year-Long Reading Course Graduate. Lynnsey earned both her B.S. in Interdisciplinary Studies K-6 and her M.A. in Reading and Reading Specialist from East Tennessee State University in Johnson City, TN. She also serves as a Hope Street Group Tennessee Teacher Fellow, engaging her colleagues in providing classroom feedback to the Tennessee Department of Education on public education policy issues.