Jose Mendoza had been an “A” student at his Long Beach high school, with a “B” here and there. He excelled through his high school’s highest honors, taking a stellar course load that included seven advanced placement courses and gaining acceptance to the Distinguished Scholars program.
But his undocumented status was weighing on his shoulders—and his dreams.
At the end of high school, Jose couldn’t apply to top colleges and universities like other high-performing students, and there was no way his family could afford a costly tuition.
“It felt like a dead end for me,” Jose said of the time. So, in 2008 he enrolled at Long Beach City College, where he spent two aimless years “passing time until something changed.”
Jose’s life soon took an even darker turn in 2011 when his mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. With his father working in construction out of state to keep money coming in, Jose became his mother’s primary caregiver through surgery, chemotherapy, and other treatments, as well as caregiver to his three younger brothers. Jose was doing the cooking and cleaning at home and taking his second youngest brother to school every day.
Happily, Jose’s mother successfully completed her treatment and is now doing fine. For Jose, the experience of watching her go through such a traumatic time was an inspiration. Despite the challenges he faced as an undocumented immigrant, he wanted to get back on track and find a way to make a difference in the world. He wanted to become a nurse.
“When I was in the hospital with my mom, I saw how there were all these nurses who were so helpful and who were working so hard to make her experience so much better,” Jose said.
In 2012, Jose started taking anatomy and human development classes at Santa Monica College that would allow him to apply to the nursing program. With President Obama’s launch of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, Jose feels that the change he was awaiting is finally here.
“You spend all this time waiting for something to happen, and now it feels like there is finally some progress to talk about,” Jose said after submitting his DACA application. “It’s not everything we were waiting for, but it’s something. And it’s given me a new motivation to try to advance myself and move forward to achieve my goals.”
With the LGBT Dreamers Fund covering the costs of Jose’s DACA application, Jose did not have to dip into the money he’s saving up for school.
“It’s hard trying to keep up with the costs of education and daily life when you are undocumented,” he said. “Getting this kind of support and help means so much, and it’s great to see the gay community stepping in and saying that what I am doing is important.”