Things That Matter

After Becoming The First Undocumented Student At Her School To Get Her Ph.D., She’s Concerned About DACA’s Future

As the first undocumented student to receive her Ph.D. from the University of California, Merced, Yuriana Aguilar is working hard to advance research on cardiovascular disease. But her success did not come easily. From struggling to pay for her undergrad tuition without DACA, to then having the amazing opportunity of completing her Ph.D. with the benefits of DACA, Yuriana Aguilar has been on both sides of this U.S. policy. But the question is, what’s going to happen next?

Here is Yuriana’s story and what she has to say to those whose lives also depend on DACA.

Yuriana Aguilar comes from a very humble background. Her parents only made it to second and sixth grade, but they never doubted her ability to excel in higher education.

aguilarswsquash-800x888
CREDIT: SASHA KHOKHA / KQED

“Sometimes I would get very frustrated, and they would say, ‘Tú eres muy inteligente, you can do it,'” Aguilar said. “And I would be like, okay, I don’t need that, but I think I did.”

Her parents made their children’s education a priority. “My parents figured out that education was the key,” Aguilar told mitú.

yurianaaguilar
CREDIT: SASHA KHOKHA / KQED

“With some families, if they have a truck or if they have a little house, even if their kids are barely making it out of high school, they think they’ve made it. And maybe they have, because in Mexico life is a lot harder,” Aguilar explained. “But somehow my parents knew that education was the key, and they were right.”

During her first four years in college, Aguilar was turned away from scholarships and other financial aid programs because DACA didn’t exist until 2012.

36415_1477153964675_42186_n
CREDIT: YURIANA AGUILAR / FACEBOOK

“One of the frustrations was trying to show the type of status I had,” she explained to mitú.

“When I was getting my Bachelors from 2007 to 2011, I could see a lot of people wanted to help me, they wanted me to have access to different opportunities and different scholarships, but [the organizations] would just tell me, ‘We can’t help you.'” Aguilar dealt with this for years. “It was very discouraging that they didn’t want to look at any of my qualifications.”

After getting her bachelor’s degree, she thought she had to end her education to give her siblings a chance to go to college.

36415_1477153884673_2889119_n
CREDIT: YURIANA AGUILAR / FACEBOOK

“I just couldn’t continue with school because my parents would be even more burdened. So I said, I’m not going to do it. I’m not going to get my Ph.D.”

“I was looking at the options and one of the options was being able to work for the university and the university would cover graduate school. But my [undocumented status] wasn’t going to work that way because I didn’t have a work permit, so I was going to have to pay for it. And I wasn’t going to be able to do that.”

But everything changed once DACA was implemented.

thumbnail_20160515_104009
CREDIT: YURIANA AGUILAR

“Now with DACA, there are more students coming through the education pipeline. It’s a huge difference. The reason I could complete graduate school and get my Ph.D. was DACA.”

Post-graduate Aguilar continues to research cardiovascular disease in Chicago and experts say she could help save lives.

35357_1514553499640_1369719_n
Credit: Yuriana Aguilar / Facebook

Christy Snyder, a member of the graduate division, explained: “The goal of Aguilar’s research is to better understand the molecular mechanisms that generate TWAs — knowledge that could eventually help to predict the likelihood of sudden cardiac death much earlier and allow those at high risk to get treatment.”

But now Aguilar’s concern is: what’s going to happen to DACA?

aguilarsfield-1180x924
CREDIT: SASHA KHOKHA / KQED

“My mom and dad both say que no me preocupe, to not worry. But a part of me is very concerned and very worried, because the president has spoken very openly about canceling DACA. So I’m very worried, but I mean, we just have to keep going… even if we’re not very sure.”

“When I was working on my bachelor’s and then my Ph.D., I wasn’t even sure if they were going to let me work as a scientist in the future,” Aguilar said. “But you just have to keep going.”

We asked Aguilar what advice she would give to those whose education, careers, and lives also depend on DACA, and she said she wants people to remain hopeful.

36415_1477161324859_1259400_n
CREDIT: YURIANA AGUILAR / FACEBOOK

“I would just tell them what I tell myself every day: we’ll see what happens,” she told mitú.

“And whatever happens, we’ve been on the other side. On the other side when they didn’t help us, when there was no support, there were no work permits. So I think if we go back to that side, unfortunately it will be very sad because we’ve tasted what it’s like to be legal,” Aguilar said. “And I don’t know what would happen in terms of a job. Well, I do know what would happen. Everybody’s hands would be tied again.”

“People have told me that this country wants good immigration. So they think we’re going to get something better than DACA. We’ve taken a step back, and I just hope that DACA does not go back as well. Hopefully this president doesn’t keep his promises on that.”


READ: Former Presidential Candidate Tells Educated Dreamer To Go To Another Country

If you can relate to Aguilar’s concern, comment and hit the share button below!

MIT Just Announced Their First Black Woman Student Body President

Things That Matter

MIT Just Announced Their First Black Woman Student Body President

@OnlyInBOS / twitter

As a Massachusetts Institute of Technology undergrad, Danielle Geathers has already accomplished so much. And yet, recently she accomplished a feat that is making history. When the college student returns back to her classes at MIT this fall, she will be the first in the school’s 159- year history to do so as a Black female student body president.

Geathers, who is 22 years old, was recently elected by her student body as the president of the Undergraduate Association.

She will take up the torch as president alongside her running mate Yu Jing Chen. Speaking to MIT’s student newspaper The Tech, Geathers explained that it “didn’t surprise me that no black women had been president… Someone asked if the UA president was a figurehead role [during the debate]. I think no, but minimally, a black female in that role will squash every perception that MIT is still mostly white and male… Minimally, the immediate image of that will make MIT a more welcoming and inclusive place.”

Geathers, who is a major in mechanical engineering with a concentration in product design is also working on a minor in African and American diaspora studies.

Last year, Geathers served as the United Association’s diversity officer. Speaking about her initial efforts to run for president, Geathers said that she felt quite a bit of doubt and uncertainty about running. “Who am I to be president?” Geathers told The Tech about her mindset at the time. Fortunately, Geathers decided to run, “I talked to a couple of people who said, ‘That is the problem with America.’ People who care about equity never want to run for the main role because they think they’re not for it.”

Speaking about why her race and the one of her running mate had an important role in her campaign, Geathers said “We try to ignore the communities that people are from, but that’s what’s gonna make them good.”

It’s important to note that 6% of MIT’s undergraduate students are Black, and only 47% are women.

A 13-Year-Old Student Just Became A California College’s Youngest Graduate

Things That Matter

A 13-Year-Old Student Just Became A California College’s Youngest Graduate

@WBTV_News /twitter

Thirteen-year-old Jack Rico might not be able to drive but he’s going full speed ahead when it comes to his education.

The California-based teenager has wracked up a handful of college degrees under belt including an associate’s degree from Fullerton College which he earned this week.

Rico’s latest degree makes him officially the youngest graduate student from the community college.

Rico started taking college courses at the age of eleven and has since spent his time earning different degrees. “It has been a pure joy having Jack as a son and I couldn’t be any prouder of him,” Ru Andrade told People magazine in a recent interview.

It turns out, Rico has loved learning for years now, proving himself to be, as his mother describes “not your average kid.” When Rico was just 3 years old when he took a visit to the White House for his 4th birthday. “I told him that was a big trip for a little guy, and that I would take him if he could learn all the presidents,” she explained in an interview. “A week later he said, ‘Mom, I have a confession to make. I already knew all the presidents, but I learned all the vice presidents if that will still count?'”

According to Andrade, Rico actually had a rough start to his education.

Rico started his education in public school but struggled with the work until his mother decided to have him homeschooled when he was in third grade so that he could focus on his areas of weakness.

“When he was 11, I knew he needed more of a challenge and a better teacher than me,” Andrade explained. To do so she enrolled Rico in Fullerton College’s Bridge Program. “He started out just taking one class and he absolutely loved it. He just kept requesting taking more and more classes.”

While Rico won’t be able to attend a traditional graduation ceremony to celebrate his achievements this year due to coronavirus restrictions, his family has planned a special drive-by event in La Mirada to celebrate.

Turns, out four degrees, isn’t enough for Rico.

Rico is due to attend the University of Nevada this coming fall on a full scholarship. He’ll take classes Monday through Wednesday, and will commute. He reportedly will focus his studies on history.

“Jack is not a genius, he just works really hard. We are so happy for Jack and all his academic accomplishments, however, he is an even more awesome human being. He has a sister with autism that he has just been an amazing brother too,” Andrade explained.

Check out a video about Rico and his achievements below.