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Students Rising Above scholar recalls growing up with undocumented immigrant parents

Students Rising Above scholar recalls growing up with undocumented immigrant parents
Students Rising Above scholar recalls growing up with undocumented immigrant parents 03:32

BERKELEY -- It's hard enough to graduate from one of the most prestigious schools in the country when you're the first in your family to go to college. Now, imagine doing that while you are also trying to protect your parents from being deported?

Ruby Lopez walks the campus of UC Berkeley with an extra pep in her step. She's just a few months away from graduation and has big dreams and a bright outlook on her future. Four years ago, this moment didn't seem possible.

"At first I had never really heard anything about UC Berkeley. In the area that I grew up, it was kind of rare for anybody to actually go to college," Lopez said.

Lopez has always carried a heavy load in school and in life. Growing up, money was tight and she lived in fear that one day her parents would be taken away.

"My parents did not have papers when I went to school. I feared that someone was going to come and get them especially with the political climate that was arising. Because of that, I spent a lot of time not only devoted to school but also devoted to the safety of my family."

As a young child, she would juggle doing homework with helping her parents navigate getting their citizenship.

"I would sit there and try and translate documents and attempt to encourage them to go and try to get their citizenship or residency and eventually it did get to that point. "

The constant stress took its toll. By the time she started her freshman year, Lopez hit a breaking point.

"It was probably one of the lowest points in my life," she said.

She started college in 2020 and, even at a place like UC Berkeley, Lopez struggled to find students who looked like her. "So it discouraged me from actually feeling like I belonged here which just implemented imposter syndrome."

She almost dropped out but her Students Rising Above adviser convinced her it was time to put herself first.

"That was the first time I had really advocated for myself," she said.

Something else happened that would change everything. She met Hatikvah Robles at a work study program and they became best friends. Robles too was a child of immigrant parents.

"I think that's something that Ruby and I really related on where we felt that pressure to be successful and do things the correct way to fulfill an American dream that our parents had for us," Robles said. 

Lopez will graduate with a degree in legal studies with an emphasis on immigration so she can other people navigate the complicated immigration process. Even more than that she wants to write her own chapter in her family's story.

"That's really the bigger picture of why i keep going because of the fact that I know I have other people around me that are looking at me and seeing what my next step is."

Whatever that next step is, Lopez knows she won't be making it alone.

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