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Turning Shame into Strength

A few weeks after my high school graduation, a story broke that got news stations around the country asking questions…

On the day of my graduation. I got up on stage feeling a bit scared.

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I addressed my class as a “proud, undocumented, Latina who is unafraid, unashamed, and here to stay.” Surprisingly, I was able to walk off the stage like this after being met with positive responses in the forms of cheering and applause.

The thing was that I grew up in a household where my mom taught me to keep our immigration status a secret. I understood her fear. She just didn’t want anything bad to happen. She didn’t want our family to be separated as many other families have been.

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So how did I get to this point at my high school graduation?

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I began by telling a few of my best friends after I was asked for a ride home sophomore year and I didn’t even have one for myself. I couldn’t continue keeping all these secrets. The next year, I started getting involved with an organization called Connecticut Students for a Dream (C4D). I found a family of people like me who taught me how to find strength in my story. I felt like a weight was being lifted off my shoulders as I became empowered through activism.

Protesting at the Republican National Convention with other members of C4D

 

Eventually, I was fully out of the “undocu-closet”. By senior year, I was telling everyone my story.

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The strength I built with my community was enough to get me through when I received negative feedback or comments, most from people I didn’t even know.

I often heard that I didn’t deserve my spot at Harvard because I was an “illegal alien.”

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With the support of others, I learned how to handle negativity, externalize the issue, and not see my status as a reflection of who I was. It wasn’t something to be ashamed of because it was not something that was wrong with me. There were so many other aspects to my identity that people couldn’t see because they couldn’t get past my immigration status.

I was able to scroll by the comments written about me and not pay attention to the things people said that had absolutely no effect on their own lives.

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Now you can catch me telling everyone about my immigration status on campus through Act on a Dream (more on that in a future blog) or just randomly to students and staff in the dining hall.

Rally on Widener steps shortly after the 2016 presidential election

 

About the author

Hi everyone! My name is Laura Veira-Ramirez, and I am a rising sophomore at the College. I will be living in Leverett House for the next three years. I was born in Bogota, Colombia, but my family... View full profile

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