Financial Hardship / Making History / Stories

Elizabeth J, D.- Determined To Make The World A Better Place


Elizabeth J D, 21, Fridley, MN, Born in Mexico

elizabethI have dreams of going to medical school and have since changed my major in college from nursing to chemistry and physics. Cancer research is something that I truly want to pursue, especially after my internship at the University of Minnesota where I studied this disease and how it manifests in women. It will take an extra year to graduate with my major change, but I feel like this is my calling. I’ve already completed my first research study comparing cancer mortality rates between African American and Caucasian American women.

It’s not just the scientific research that fascinates me; it’s learning as much as I can about how to translate what I learn into directly helping people in my community, people who more often than not don’t have access to adequate medical care.

Presently, I’m in my junior year at St. Kate’s, a private Catholic university, where I was able to attain a scholarship from my high school academics. In addition to school, I work for a women’s shelter caring for victims of domestic violence. I help women get themselves re-established and act as their advocate in legal, employment and housing matters. I also make sure their children get the assistance they need.

I have firsthand knowledge of what domestic violence can do to a family. It’s why my mother fled Mexico with me. To keep us safe, she took a leap of faith and started over in a nation that offers women more protection from abuse than Mexico. Though she eventually worked things out with my father, it took a new life in a new country to bring our family back together. Because of my childhood experiences, I can relate to the women in the shelter and this helps them trust me.

Right now, I live with my parents and two younger brothers, 12 and 7, who are both citizens. We support each other both emotionally and financially and keep our family strong.

My mom brought me to the States 16 years ago. I was only five so she tried to keep me from being afraid by telling me we were going to Disneyland. Instead we walked across most of Arizona until we found a place to stay. We were with a group of friends and they took turns carrying me because I was too little to keep up or walk great distances. We wound up in Chicago with an uncle for a year and then reconciled and reunited with my father in Minnesota where we’ve been ever since.

Before DACA, I was working long hours for little pay while going to school. Now I have a work permit and a real job that I love, where I make a real difference. DACA is a good start to fixing the immigration system but it’s not nearly enough. My mom applied for residency with the sponsorship of her own mom. This was 15 years ago. My grandmother has since died and my mom has yet to have her application approved.

I must continue to follow my dreams despite the immigration system’s failures. I have big plans. I was the first in my family to graduate high school and go to college. The goal of finding new cancer treatments drives me to study hard and figure out a way to pay for medical school. It won’t be easy, but I have a lot of emotional support from my family. This keeps me going along with the work I do at the women’s shelter. I am earning my citizenship by becoming a research scientist, by fulfilling my potential as an advocate for women and social justice and by making my parents proud.