jaime-finalJaime Diaz was 11 years old when he and his mother crossed the U.S.-Mexico border to be with his father, who had crossed a year earlier.

“We walked and walked and walked, but all I kept thinking was that I was going to get to see my father and we were coming to the United States,” Jaime recalled.

He and his mother arrived safely and made their way to Los Angeles, where his father had settled and awaited them. Jaime soon began attending an Inglewood middle school, where he had trouble fitting in.

“It was difficult adjusting and blending into the mainstream because of the language issues and the different customs,” he said.

But Jaime was able to keep his grades up through high school. When his classmates started applying to colleges in their senior year in 2002-03, Jaime decided he wanted to do the same.

His parents had only made it through the third grade in Mexico, and he wanted to be the first in his family to make it all the way through school, with a dream of eventually becoming a teacher.

He applied and was accepted into California State University, Dominguez Hills, and juggled his class load with a full-time job selling furniture as he pursued his bachelor’s degree. It took him seven years, and in 2011 he earned his teaching credential.

Jaime’s application for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was approved in late 2012, and he is waiting to take the state test to get his teaching credential. Jaime hopes to become an elementary school teacher in Inglewood, giving back to the community that’s not only been a significant part of his life, but is his home.

“Everything is starting to fall into place,” Jaime said. “Getting my work permit and Social Security card and other documents was like getting a whole load lifted off my shoulders. I feel more free because of DACA and I am no longer scared of the police or of being treated like a criminal.”