It was 13 years ago as a high school junior that I realized I wanted to be a teacher.
My math class that year lacked a permanent instructor. Instead, a series of inexperienced substitute teachers attempted to teach advanced algebra. These substitutes noticed that I was able to teach myself the material and ace the tests. They asked me to teach the entire class.
I immediately loved the feeling of favorably impacting students’ lives. As I continued my studies, I learned to stop measuring my success in terms of test scores and to measure my abilities to inspire and empower the community instead. Having moved to Chicago from Mexico when I was two years old, I felt that I’d have the most impact serving Latino students in that city. That is what I did.
I always knew that what I had could be temporary.
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During the days leading up to the announcement about the future of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, I prepared for the worst.
The news about the program’s demise came out on my daughter’s very first day of school. When my wife sent me a picture of her in the classroom, I felt so many emotions at once. I was prepared for this when I only had to worry about myself, but everything changed the minute I became a teacher and a father.
My success in the classroom always stems from the fact that I could look at my students and see so many similarities, whether it was immigration status, socioeconomic background or even what shows and sports we watched.
As a class, we shared struggles, successes and failures. In addition to teaching math, I joined OneGoal, an organization that helps ensure all students have a real opportunity to earn a college degree.
As a OneGoal teacher, I worked with the same group of students for three years to coach them to and through college. In the classroom setting we didn’t speak about immigration status, because I knew my undocumented students already felt excluded. It was in our private one-on-one discussions where we could speak freely about what they should prepare for as undocumented students in college, the workforce, and on.
With these students, building relationships with their families became crucial because for many, I was the only person they could turn to who had navigated this experience successfully.
As I’m getting older, I’m realizing how hard it is to remain hopeful. Especially now that I’ve been in this country for more than 20 years and have a family. I had no say in where I was born or how I came here, but being here has provided me the best opportunities. Now, my daughter and son, American citizens, will have no say if we get deported to Mexico now that DACA has been rescinded. They could now be stripped of the opportunities to pursue the incredible life that every parent wants for their children.
My story is one of 800,000 unique stories. There is no single narrative and we all now have so much to lose. Older generations of DACA recipients are worrying about keeping their homes, their businesses, their jobs and everything they worked for. Younger generations are worrying about being able to finish school and truly have the opportunity to begin their careers. When you consider all of this, how can you not feel helpless and angry in this situation?
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And yet, my students find a way. They have hope because they still believe that they have the right to earn their place in life and achieve their goals. That is what rejuvenates me every day. My students have a contagious fire of hope and energy. They are ready to take action and advocate for themselves to remain in this country so they can earn the life they worked so hard for.
The fact that a new generation is now going through the same emotional, mental and financial struggles I went through shows that the system is really broken. So, I will fight side by side with them.
I will fight for their futures while trying to maintain mine. I will be even more of a mentor now that I can guide them through the undocumented experience and in turn, they will remind me of what matters and help maintain that audacious hope that we can all have a future here.
This story was produced by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, independent news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education. Sign up for our newsletter.
A former math teacher and OneGoal Program director in the Chicago Public Schools, David Blancas now coaches other teachers as director of teacher support at OneGoal.