My name is Mariza Orosco, and I arrived in the United States with my family of four in 2002, when I was 13 years old. My father was a minister in Peru, and he got a call to start a church in the U.S. and was offered an R-1 visa—a temporary visa for religious workers. Although he had a stable job, he also wanted us to have a better education. As a minister, he moved around Peru a lot, and our family had moved to over four different cities by the time I was 12. One of the last places we moved to was a very remote town near the Amazon. Both my parents got sick with dengue fever—a deadly mosquito-borne disease—which prompted them to make the move to the U.S. When we arrived, they immediately filed paperwork to become legal permanent residents. Unfortunately, in 2006 during the last stages of the process, something went terribly wrong.
I was a high school senior at the time and I realized my options for colleges had been severely narrowed, as I couldn't apply for financial aid. However, I was a straight A student and earned partial scholarships, which allowed me to attend Western Connecticut State University part-time, while I worked to pay the out-of-state tuition. I completed my bachelor's degree in Spanish secondary education and graduated in May 2012. Although this was a great accomplishment for me, my diploma was just a piece of paper that I could not use, due to my immigration status.
This all changed when President Obama announced the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program on June 15, 2012. I filed my application at the end of August and on Nov. 4, I received a letter letting me know my deferred action was granted for two years. With employment authorization and a Social Security card, I was now able to schedule the proper testing to get my Connecticut teaching certification, which would finally allow me to start teaching in my state. When I got my certification, I immediately started applying for jobs, and in the second week of April, I landed my first teaching position as a substitute teacher.
DACA has truly changed my life as I can now have a driver's license, support myself financially and help my family, while working in a profession I truly love. I am currently in my second year teaching Spanish full-time at Bethel High School in Connecticut. As a new teacher, I'm so happy to be able to give back to my community and to the place I have called home for over 10 years. I am now looking forward to starting graduate school this fall and continuing to walk through doors that have been opened for me.