• Martha Wolfe

Immigrant Stories - Living and Learning Under DACA

Updated: Jul 26, 2018

Meet Jada Jeremiah! An enthusiastic young 19 year old who has just finished her first year at SUNY Broome, Jada arrived in the United States from Trinidad when she was only two and a half years old, and has been living in New York ever since.

For most of her life she has been a part of the Johnson City School District and recently graduated in 2017. Jada is a Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipient and has grown up beneath the shadow of the privileges and obstacles which this status brings. Jada lives with her mother and is the oldest sister of three children - both of her younger siblings are U.S. citizens who were born in the United States. Her mother brought Jada to the United States in the hopes of providing Jada with a better life. Like many immigrants, her mother believed in the American Dream. She imagined the green lawn, white fence, and mounts of opportunities - opportunities that are not so easily found in Trinidad.

Growing up Jada had difficulty in school because she would often be picked on by her classmates for her accent, and her status as undocumented. Even so, Jada thrived. She participated in countless plays and musicals including Shrek and Cats. She found her passion in music and song and has been enthralled by it ever since. She worked tirelessly on her academics and was involved in CSTEP, a highly acclaimed science program in her high school and later would graduate with all honors. Jada has never allowed her status to stop her, to say the least.

However, like most DACA recipients it wasn’t until her senior year of high school that she began to seriously ask what her DACA status meant for her life. At first, she was very optimistic when applying for colleges and believed that everything would work out for the best, because she has always demanded the best from herself. As time went on and her classmates were enthusiastically accepting college offers, though, she found herself realizing the full scope of the financial burden posed against her.

While affording tuition and succeeding in college are challenging for most American families and their college-age members, Jada’s path is further complicated by her DACA status. Unlike most of her peers, she is denied access to many forms of financial aid available to most of her fellow graduates of NYS high schools. Even with her high academic achievements, she cannot receive federal grants or loans of any kind, nor is she eligible for a majority of scholarships or for NY’s tuition-free plan, the Excelsior program. Banks are reluctant to offer her loans. Those that are willing only do so with secure bank credit cards.

At times, Jada felt utterly consumed by this weight. All her life, she'd been told that she could make it if she just tried hard enough, but it would require more than even her very best effort to overcome this hurdle - it required support. That is where the American Civic Association and all of you can step in.

Jada’s relationship with the American Civic Association goes way back. Jada was actually one of the first DACA recipients that the American Civic Association received and had the pleasure to support. With the support of her family, Jada has been able to attend her first year at SUNY Broome in pursuit of her education and ultimately get one step closer to her desire to help people heal and prosper through the power of song and melody as a music therapist. She has maintained a full academic courseload while working between 20 to 30 hours a week as a cashier in order to afford her education. This packed schedule leaves her with only 4 to 5 hours of sleep per night, and even so, she is barely making ends meet in order to afford her higher education.

Jada’s dream is to complete her education at Berea College, and the American Civic

Association believes that Jada and other DACA recipients deserve the opportunity afforded to all college-aged students to pursue their dreams. Jada’s status does not make her any less a member of the Broome County community. Denying Jada access to financial aid does not just make life’s path harder for Jada and her family, but is a blow to our community and all those teachers, mentors, and other community members that have supported and continue to support her, and a blow to all those that she might support and serve in the future.

Click the picture to donate to Jada's Educational Pursuits!


Please come alongside us and help by donating to support Jada’s higher education pursuits. Your support will empower Jada receive her degree and achieve her dreams of giving back to her community through music.




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