Booker High School graduate Grecia Quevedo spent most of her high school career helping other students find a pathway to college. As a College For Every Student Scholar Leader, Quevedo organized college fairs, mentored students, guided them through the college application process and helped them develop the skills they needed to pursue a higher education.
She’s dedicated countless hours helping her peers explore the possibilities of a brighter future, but her own college career remains uncertain. Quevedo is one of the 689,800 undocumented immigrants under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA. The program, enacted in 2012, offers temporary protection from deportation to young people who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children. They are allowed to remain in the country where they can work, get a Social Security Number and, in most cases, a driver’s license.
Quevedo came to the U.S. from Mexico with her mother when she was 1 year old. Her father was already settled in Florida, but he wasn’t aware his family was making the journey until they were days into crossing the Arizona desert. Quevedo grew up in Sarasota and was never concerned about her undocumented status until the opportunity to apply for DACA arose when she turned 15.
“It all just hit me that as a non-U.S. citizen, I'm not able to have the same opportunities as other students, so I have to work twice as hard,” Quevedo said. Apart from being a CFES Scholar Leader, she also completed Booker’s rigorous college-preparatory program, Cambridge International AICE, and was involved with numerous sports and clubs on campus.
Her goals are to become an obstetrician or pediatrician, but her biggest roadblock to college as a DACA recipient is raising enough money to support her through school. DACA students are not eligible for federal financial aid and Quevedo’s status has made applying for some scholarships difficult.
“It’s been stressful and I’m heartbroken at moments,” she said. “But like I told my parents, doors close, new ones open.”
According to the nonprofit Educators for Fair Consideration, only 10,000 of the estimated 65,000 DACA students who graduate from high school annually end up graduating from college.
Quevedo remains determined and hopeful. She’s narrowed down her decision to five colleges and is waiting to see which schools will offer her the scholarships she needs.
Her college advisor at Booker, Lem Andrews, said Quevedo deserves it. “She’s been an active leader on campus and in the community since day one and she best exemplifies perseverance having had her struggles along the way,” Andrews said.
Quevedo will have to reapply for DACA in September and she’s concerned about the program’s future and the precarity of being an undocumented student.
“I've seen so many stories of students getting everything taken away,” she said. “ICE comes and get them from school. I was just sitting in class thinking, ‘Are they coming to get me today?’ I have 2 siblings. What's going to happen to them if they come and get me or my parents?”
Despite her fears, she still clings to an American Dream of getting an education and being the first in her family to graduate from college.
“I want to be someone productive in life. I really want my younger brothers to look up to me. They are my motivation to move forward.