Pablo Pínzon was born in 1990 in Veracruz, Mexico. His parents immigrated to the US when he was seven years old, and he reunited with his family a year later. Though he was a well-rounded high school student, excelling in both sports and arts, he was blindsided when his scholarship offers to prestigious schools were withdrawn because of his lack of documentation. He experienced a long period of questioning and struggle, and made his way to Greenville, looking for work.
In 2014, through President Obama’s Executive Action, Pablo was granted Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status, which allowed Pablo to obtain a work permit, driver’s license and enroll in college. Empowered with new possibility, Pablo decided to chase his dream of becoming an engineer. We met Pablo in 2015 when he knocked on Hispanic Alliance’s door seeking support in his enrollment process to Greenville Tech. Since Pablo’s DACA status does not allow him to get in-state tuition, nor access financial aid in South Carolina, Pablo is not able to become a full-time student. However, he is determined to build his own path forward, and is currently working full time to pay for his tuition while he pursues a degree in Mechatronics at Greenville Tech.
Since Pablo walked through the doors of the Hispanic Alliance, he has become a consistent volunteer. Pablo can be depended on to assist at the HA office during his precious spare moments, often arriving after completing a night shift, in order to help other aspiring students through their admission process. Pablo is a skilled volunteer, having navigated immigration issues himself and enrolling in college in spite of the odds being against him. Even so, he completes humble tasks such as food pick up and trash removal before the staff can think to ask him. He is both an inspiration, and an motivation for us to continue to open doors and build opportunity for his generation and those to follow.
Viana was born in Acapulco, Mexico, and lived with her mother while her father worked in the U.S. When she was seven her mother brought her to Greenville to reunite with their family. Viana never understood the significance of her DACA status until she was in high school. While she was able to get a driver’s license, a job, and possess a critically-important Social Security Number, her cousin who was undocumented, could not even apply for college. She took a positive perspective on the benefits of DACA, making the most of her slim advantages to master her academics for the sake of her family members who could not achieve this for themselves.
“My parents never had the opportunity to go to school, and my brothers weren't able to finish high school, so I want to change that.... I was the first one to graduate and I want to set the example for future generations in my family.”
Her convictions have paid off. She was selected to participate in the Student DREAMers Alliance, a leadership incubator through the Hispanic Alliance. Her determined responsibility to succeed won her an ACE Award as an "unsung hero" in 2017, and by graduation she was in the top ten of her class at Carolina High School. Yet even from this vantage point of success, there are looming barriers that threaten to cut short her dreams of nursing. She could not afford the out-of-state tuition rates without government financial aid, which her DACA status prevents her from receiving, and there are limited resources for private scholarships accessible to DACA students. Beyond this, she must have the courage to face a final "brick wall" on her journey - South Carolina law bars DACA students from acquiring professional licenses, regardless of course work, including being registered as a nurse (RN).
Nonetheless, Viana has persevered. “I decided this is not going to stop me from pursuing my dream.”
We are thrilled to support Viana to attend Greenville Technical College as a full-time student. Currently she is completing a course as a patient care technician (PCT), which will allow her to work in healthcare while she takes nursing courses. “I am hopeful things are going to change,” she says.
It is that hope, hard work, and passion that exemplifies the spirit of all Dreamers.