Student Success Stories
Juan Cristobal Quevedo Gutierrez
California State University, Northridge
In 1991, my family and I emigrated from central Mexico to the United States. I was five years old at the time, and clueless to the hardships we would soon face. We had no income, food, shelter, family or friends. Several years later, my father disappeared leaving my mother to raise six children all on her own. We assumed he abandoned us. However, more than a decade later, we discovered that the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement detained, prosecuted and eventually deported and later died. Despite growing up in a single parent household and growing up in a community plagued by domestic violence, incarcerations, alcohol and drug abuse, I have persevered and have been a positive influence on both my family and community.
The trend of adversity did not cease with my father; my older brother would also become a subject of the United States immigration laws and deported to Mexico. These events left the rest of my family with no time to prepare for our newly inherited responsibilities. Thus, while in the fifth grade, my twin brother and I became the "men of the house." These responsibilities affected my academic career to the extent that I had to work prior to attending college in order to finance my education. Ultimately, attending college ranked amongst the lowest of my priorities. But in the end, I refused to reduce myself to a calculable statistic, and let my father's death and mother's hard work wither away in vain.
After extensive research, I discovered my mother met the necessary factors to qualify for adjustment of immigration status via the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Prevention Act. Immediately we gathered as a family to weigh the pros and cons of pursuing such a petition. Essentially, we were to reveal our unlawful presence and risk deportation. Nevertheless, earlier this year we were granted U.S. Lawful Permanent Residency.
Given the possibility of adjusting my status, I was inspired to reevaluate, assess and develop new goals, both short-term and long-term. I immediately enrolled at Antelope Valley College, becoming the first in my family to pursue a college degree. I attended college both part and full-time, alternating every other semester. After continuing this trend for four and a half years, I transferred to California State University, Northridge (CSUN). I joined and eventually was elected President of Dreams to be Heard, a student-led organization dedicated to educate, inspire and empower the undocumented immigrant community under the guidance of the EOP director Jose Luis Vargas. Although I did not qualify for the EOP program, I sought refuge in the various workshops administered by the AB 540 initiative—a branch of the EOP. As a result of these workshops, I was named onto the Dean's List all four semesters at CSUN.
Through my example and achievements, I have encouraged my younger siblings to follow in my footsteps. They have graduated from high school and gone on to attend college. They have found their own niche avoiding our past familial and communal baggage. My mother too, has been encouraged to learn the English language. Over all, we have developed into inclusive and integral members of our society.
To say I have experienced hardships is an understatement. But at the same time, those hardships have been the most important factors shaping me into the person I am today¬–an activist for equal justice, an organizer for civil rights, and an advocate for genuine representation of the low-income and undocumented immigrant community. Therefore, I plan to enter the Charles Hamilton Houston Law School Preparatory Institute at Georgetown University Law Center this summer, and the University of Tennessee College of Law this fall, to further understand, to explain, and perhaps to influence the complex and often convoluted world of Immigration Law with direction and vigor.
Read personal stories of extraordinary drive, persistence, and commitment, from these CSU students who stand as examples of the success of the CSU Educational Opportunity Program: