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San Jose State University

Jessica Sierra Ornelas

2020 BAGSF Essay 

 I left Mexico in 2006 at the age of eight to start a new life in the United States. This country has provided me with more opportunities and challenges than I ever could imagine. I am the oldest of my 3 siblings. I have 3 younger brothers. Roberto is 21, Ricardo is 7, and my half brother Mateo is 3 months old. My father passed away in the Summer of 2014. I was transitioning into my senior year of college when my whole world shattered. My family always struggled financially and after my dad passed away, we moved in to live with an aunt because my mom did not have a source of income. When I had the opportunity to leave Tracy, CA to attend San Jose State University, I took it. For the next 4 years, I lived with my aunt in San Jose. In 2018, my mom left for Mexico with my now 7-year-old brother Ricardo, leaving behind my brother Roberto and I. Besides my dad’s passing, my family separating has been one of the biggest challenges that I have had to work through.

              I currently live in an apartment with two other friends. I am responsible for my own rent, utilities, food, textbooks, tuition, and all other living expenses. I am able to have employment and financially support myself because I am a recipient of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). However, there is so much uncertainty about the future of DACA that makes it a very difficult time for me. I am a full-time graduate student, I work part-time overseeing two student mentor programs and hold a position as a school counselor intern for the Alum Rock School Unified District. I wouldn’t be able to have all these opportunities without DACA, scholarships, or California’s AB540 bill which allows me to receive some state financial aid.

              Besides the uncertainty on what will happen with the DACA program and how that will affect my future, I am determined to graduate with a master’s degree. With the help of some people that never stopped believing in me, I pushed myself to graduate in Spring 2019 with my bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a minor in Sociology. However, I decided that I did not want to stop at a bachelor’s degree and chose to work towards my master’s degree in educational counseling. I am striving to be a college counselor because I have been blessed with people in my life that have been there to guide me, but most importantly who have made me feel capable of striving for more. I want to guide someone in achieving their educational goals as well. I am almost done with my first year in the graduate program at San Jose State University and I look forward to keeping working in the field that opens opportunities for students. 

           Despite having to overcome so many challenges, I consider myself a very resilient person. I have been able to make it this far in life and I would not have done it without the help of so many people that care and support me such as Don Catalino Tapia. No matter what life continues to throw at me I am holding on to a positive attitude for my future and forever grateful to the people that give me hope.