Culture

This Dominican Immigrant Teen Just Got Into Harvard On His Own Merit

The recent college admissions scandal has highlighted the fact that many of the rich and famous are gaming a system already favoring them. Children of the rich are facing growing scrutiny after the world learned schools were bribed to accept certain students. Meanwhile, the story is shedding light on students of color getting into exceptional colleges on their merit while overcoming incredible obstacles. Emilio De Leon is one student showing the world what students of color are capable of doing.

Meet Emilio De Leon, a Dominican immigrant that just got accepted into Harvard.

De Leon, a senior at a Florida high school, posted his amazing achievement on social media and it currently has more than 150,000 likes.

“Not bad for an immigrant kid who used to shower outside #harvard2023!” De Leon wrote on Twitter. The tweet included a picture of him, his mom holding the flag of the Dominican Republic, and a cute picture of him showering outside.

If you’re wondering what it means to be accepted into Harvard, please consider the following: Out of more than 40,000 people that apply to attend, only a little more than 2,000 get accepted — according to last year’s report.

Furthermore, Latinos are a minority at Harvard. According to a report from 2016, the student population, both undergraduate and graduate, is 42.4 percent white, 13.5 percent Asian, 8.04 percent Latino, 5.28 percent Black, 3.77 percent mixed race, 0.22 percent American Indian or Alaska Native, and 0.1 percent Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islanders. A majority of the population, including race and gender, are white males.

Here’s how social media is taking this wonderful news.

We may not know De Leon personally, but we were crying buckets. There is something so inspiring about watching someone from such humble beginnings reach such heights.

He’s already getting attention from his Harvard classmates.

We know what it is like to find people like yourself in certain settings and how great that feels. There is something so amazing and comforting about getting connected with people who understand your culture. How many of us have sought out other Latinos in our spaces to connect with?

So when is he going to be on the “Desus & Mero” show?

Juan Ayala — a/k/a Platano Man or the subway Superman as we’d like to call him — is asking and is giving him props too. We would love to see De Leon interviewed about his experience getting to Harvard and even some insight to his first couple of days.

He even got a nice welcome from his new university.

So very cool! Keep us updated, Emilio, and congratulations. You clearly put in the work and deserve it. Harvard ain’t ready for the kind of magic and hard work a Latino will bring after striving for the best in life. We are rooting for you!

READ: How One Latina’s App Is Helping Undocumented Students Find Ways To Pay For College

She Immigrated From Mexico And Now She Is Going To Be Selling Her Tamales To Fans At The New Warriors’ Arena

Culture

She Immigrated From Mexico And Now She Is Going To Be Selling Her Tamales To Fans At The New Warriors’ Arena

Alicia’s Tamales Los Mayas / Facebook

This year is the start of a new era for Golden State Warriors basketball as the team has packed its bags from the old Oracle Arena in Oakland to the shiny new Chase Center in downtown San Francisco. The move across the bay will also coincide with a new line of food options that represent some of the Bay Area’s diverse foodscape. This will include the addition of tamales from an entrepreneur that has waited close to 20 years for an opportunity like this. 

Say hello to Alicia Villanueva, 58, who just landed a contract to sell her tamales at the new arena. Her story is one that represents the best of the American dream and shows the value of hard work.

Credit: Alicia’s Tamales Los Mayas / Facebook

Born in the city of Mazatlan, in the state of Sinaloa, Mexico, Villanueva immigrated to the U.S. with a dream to start a business selling tamales. Since a young age, she had been stuffing tamales with her mother and her abuelita. She believed tamales could be a way to connect her story to those of the people around her and as a way to make a living for her family. But this wouldn’t be easy and it would also take a lot of sacrifice on her behalf. 

So Villanueva hustled. During the day she would clean houses and take care of the disabled. Then at night, she would turn her attention over to tamales where she would make close to 100 tamales a day and up to 500 tamales in a single week. She would then take to the streets going door to door in her Berkeley neighborhood and at local job sites selling tamales. 

“I would knock on doors and introduce myself” after picking up her two young sons from school, Villanueva told the Mercury News. “Some of them became huge customers.”

Thanks to the help of San Francisco-based kitchen incubator La Cocina, who is also her partner in the contract with Chase Center, Villanueva’s dream is slowly becoming a reality.

Credit: @santacruzsentinel / Twitter

Alicia’s Tamales Los Mayas is now getting its time in the spotlight thanks to its partnership with La Cocina, a nonprofit that provides kitchen space and financial training for talented women entrepreneurs. There was also assistance from the Opportunity Fund, another nonprofit that lends money to entrepreneurs who might not qualify for certain loans from other banks. Thanks to that money, Villanueva has taken her tamale business from her Berkeley kitchen to a new 6,000-square-foot facility in Hayward, where she and her 24 employees are able to make 40,000 tamales a month.

“We have a moral obligation to say yes to people like Alicia,” Luz Urrutia, CEO of San Jose-based Opportunity Fund told the Mercury News. “She embodies the American dream, the entrepreneurial spirit.” She says that when entrepreneurs like Villanueva get financial assistance it creates a “ripple effect in our communities.”

All she ever wanted was for someone to take a chance on her tamales and now this the start of what Villanueva hopes is a growing food business that has been years in the making. 

Credit: @juansaaa / Twitter

The sky now seems to be the limit for Villanueva as she is looking to grow even more. As of now, she is having conversations with Whole Foods to hopefully sell her frozen tamales at hot bars in certain stores this December. This will be in addition to the tamales she already sells at Berkeley Bowl and UC Berkeley.

With an increasing demand for her tamales, there is also an opportunity to try new things like introducing organic and vegan options. As well as having her business become zero waste and hopefully start a community garden for the public. 

Things are moving quickly for Villanueva and her family, who assist her every day making tamales, as the business has come full circle after years of just getting by. Tamal orders are coming in every day and with her new partnership with the Warriors, who just last week asked her to deliver 5,000 tamales to the Chase Center, things are finally falling into place. 

“I just can’t believe it,” Villanueva said while showcasing all of her new cooking equipment she was able to purchase due to the loan. “I’m living a beautiful dream.”

READ: Selena Gomez And Hailey Baldwin Just Had Another Interaction And You Might Be Shocked By What Happened Here

This Deported Veteran Has Returned To The US And Is Now An American Citizen

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This Deported Veteran Has Returned To The US And Is Now An American Citizen

SCREENSHOT / Green Card Veterans / FACEBOOK

Last year, Army veteran Miguel Perez was deported to Mexico, now he has finally become a United States citizen. While Perez served in the military with deployments in Afghanistan, a prior nonviolent drug conviction is why officials say the veteran was deported without warning. Perez was granted clemency by Illinois Gov. J. B. Pritzker and with the support of Senator Tammy Duckworth, an Iraq war veteran herself, he was finally granted citizenship. 

Perez’s nightmare makes national news.

Perez arrived in the U.S. from Mexico legally when he was 8 years old. His parents and children are citizens, and Perez lived here with a Greencard for much of his life. In 2002 and 2004, Perez served in Afghanistan, when he returned, like many soldiers, he had PTSD. 

Pritzker said Perez should have had an “expedited path to citizenship” by way of an executive order by President George W. Bush, “but due to oversight, he was not afforded that opportunity.”

Perez says the experience at war overseas caused him to have PTSD and become addicted to drugs. It was this untreated addiction that would cause him to receive a felony drug conviction. He was convicted of delivering over two pounds of cocaine to an undercover cop in 2008 where he pleaded guilty. 

After serving his time for 7.5 years, in 2016 he was turned over to immigration officials where his Greencard was revoked. Last year, Perez was deported to Mexico. He says he was given no warning and no chance to speak to his family. 

Illinois Gov. J. N. Pritzker pardons Perez.

After a national public outcry, officials believed Perez was wrongfully deported. Pritzker granted him clemency in hopes of paving the way for the naturalization process with a clean record. “Now we believe that Miguel is eligible for naturalization because criminal conviction doesn’t render him ineligible through ‘bad moral character.’ That’s the term they use,” his lawyer, Chris Bergin told journalists in Laredo, Texas. “That’s what we’re going to argue, and I think it’s a good argument.” 
Bergin was sympathetic to Perez’s situation, suggesting it was a failure of the system to provide adequate support for veterans. 
“He served and saw serious action in Afghanistan,” Bergin said. “If we do support the troops, then we gotta support them all.”

Senator Tammy Duckworth fights on behalf of Perez and immigrants.

Senator Duckworth heard Perez’s case and went through many efforts to spare him from deportation by writing several letters of support including one directly asking U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielson to personally review his case. 

“Miguel Perez was willing to protect our nation in uniform and his experiences after coming home—including the great lengths he went to reform his life—show us why we should never give up on our combat Veterans. While he shouldn’t have been deported in the first place, I’m glad he’s received this parole after Governor Pritzker granted him clemency to attend his citizenship hearing, and I wish Miguel the best of luck. It will be a proud day for our country when we can call Miguel a fellow American,” Senator Duckworth said in a statement. 

On the one-year anniversary of Perez’s deportation, she re-introduced three bills to support veterans and service members from deportation. The Veterans Visa and Protection Act, HOPE Act and I-VETS Act, “would prohibit the deportation of Veterans who are not violent offenders, give legal permanent residents a path to citizenship through military service and strengthen VA healthcare services for Veterans.” 

Perez becomes finally becomes a citizen. 

Long overdue swearing-in as a US Citizen!!!

Posted by Green Card Veterans on Friday, October 4, 2019

It wasn’t a call that the 41-year-old anticipated given the circumstances, but it was a welcome one nonetheless: he would be sworn in as a United States citizen. 

“I was like no way. Seriously? He was like, ‘Yeah, it’s official,’ ” Perez told CNN of when his lawyer got the news. 

Perez completed the naturalization oath with Green Card Veterans present. Now that he is back in the U.S. the veteran can spend time with his family and receive treatment for his health; Perez was being treated for an undisclosed issue when he received the call. 

“I get to take care of my health, first and foremost,” he said. “It’s been a long … a long journey, a long battle.”

On his first day back, Perez told CNN all he plans to do is go bowling with his son. Inspired by Perez’s situation Senator Duckworth and bill co-sponsors Senator Richard Blumenthal, Senator Mazie Hirono, and Senator Ron Wyden plan to keep fighting to prevent veterans from being deported.

“Men and women willing to wear our uniform shouldn’t be deported by the same nation they risked their lives to defend,” Duckworth said.