My name is Cindy Kolade, and I am a junior at Towson University majoring in molecular biology. I came to the United States at 12 years old with my mom, who was in search of a better life. When we first arrived in Maryland, I thought we had come for a visit and would be going back to Côte d'Ivoire, but then she told me that for us to have a better future, we would be staying in the U.S.
I was then enrolled in school, and in the 10th grade I started looking at colleges. I was faced with the harsh reality of my situation when my mother told me that it was going to be hard to pay tuition. Additionally, being undocumented made me ineligible for financial aid. At the same time, my mom had found CASA de Maryland—an immigrant rights advocacy organization—with which she became very active. She would bring me to their rallies to march with her, which sparked my activism. At that time, everyone was fighting for the federal DREAM Act, which ultimately failed to pass, but then in Maryland, we began fighting for the Maryland Dream Act. The act would allow certain undocumented students to pay in-state tuition at Maryland community colleges and four year institutions.
Luckily, in 2012 we managed to get the Maryland legislation passed, and the president also announced the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. I'm a DACA recipient as well as a Maryland Dream Act beneficiary. DACA helped me unlock my dreams of working and being able to attend school.
Most of us come to the U.S. for a better education, but to do that, you need money, which I didn't have. However, have DACA status allowed me to get a job where I could save money to go back to school. It might be hard but at least it's possible. It might take time but at least I know I'm on my way to the top. The good part about having DACA is that I can pay taxes, own a car, have a driver's license, visit all the states, and I can even go to the U.S Virgin Islands. I am working hard to earn my bachelor's, and my goal is to work in a research lab. I am keeping my head up and moving slowly but surely, and I am thankful for that.