Our Moving Stories: Episode 10 — MarcelaConversation with: Marcela.
This podcast is hosted by Bruno Villegas & Ariadne Pacheco.
Migration was never part of Marcela’s life dream or agenda. Instead, after the sudden death of her mother– with no other family members available to care for her—joining an uncle she barely knew in California was the only viable choice. At age 13, she suddenly finds herself migrating – not only to a new land – but also to a new family system.
Marcela describes the before and after chapters of her life. In the initial chapter, she describes her homeland of Nicaragua—its familiar language and cultural practices and most poignantly her mother, friends and social supports—all which she profoundly values and misses. In the new chapter, she describes “going from 0 to 100” linguistically—she is rapidly immersed into an almost entirely English speaking world as her school have limited Spanish supports, and, though her uncle speaks Spanish, neither his wife nor children do so.
Marcela over-stays her visa and has little understanding of the long-term implications of that status. While she soon realizes that she is unable to travel back to Nicaragua, it takes several years to realize that her status had implications for her future opportunities. Crucial in her successful academic pathway to U.C. Berkeley are a handful of high school teachers including her home room mentors and an AP government teacher who provide her information about the California Dream Act and help with her college applications. She applies and is admitted to several colleges and universities and ultimately settles on U.C. Berkeley, in large part, because of the supports it provides to its undocumented students including academic advising, legal advising, counseling, a study space, among others.
Marcela speaks of the opaque college pathway access routes that undocumented college students must navigate. She names the burden of disclosure that falls on undocumented students’ shoulders as well as the lack of training and misinformation provided by many in roles of ostensible support for members of the undocumented community. Recognizing the critical roles that helpful educators and peer advisors played in her own success, she chooses to go on to graduate education in order to pursue student support and mental health services so that she can, with “cultural humility,” support unaccompanied and undocumented youth to be successful.