Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS)
How did it feel to be reunited with your mother in the U.S. after so many years?
It was really awesome. When I got off the plane, I was really excited. It was so exciting...I couldn’t even cry, to be honest. My brother and I just hugged her like we would never let her go. And then we spent the rest of the day with her.
What was it like to start school in the U.S.?
When I first got to school, it was quite confusing. In 9th grade I was kind of shy because it was a new country. I felt weird, but I knew what my main goals were: to learn English fast, and to adjust in my new school. In 10th grade I started putting more effort into learning English, and making new friends that spoke fluent English. At that moment I thought to myself, ‘how am I going to learn [English] if I speak if I keep speaking Spanish with my friends and not practicing my pronunciation?’
When I got into 11th grade, I took all my classes in English. I got into English honors and AP Spanish. I put in a lot of work. My English teacher asked, “Do you think you are ready to take these classes?”And I responded, “Well, I know that it’s going to be hard but I think I’m ready for it because I’ve been preparing myself at home for this big challenge...I‘m very confident with myself that I’ll be okay.”
What steps did you take, besides speaking to new friends and putting in a lot of effort at school, to learn English?
At home, if I wouldn't understand something I would Google it so I would be prepared for the next day’s lesson. I used to watch videos of people teaching some random subject and I would pay close attention to the words I didn’t understand to look for them later on. That was really helpful because in the English honors class we would be assigned many essays. I would watch shows in English, practicing and having entertainment at the same time. Sometimes I wouldn't sleep until 4am because I had to finish all my assignments on time. I just wanted to get the best out of me and I think it was a good idea to try new methods of studying on my own.
Did the hard work pay off?
It did! In first semester of the year I got better grades than I had gotten the year before--straight As, except for one B. I set goals I wanted to achieve by the end of the year. I achieved most of them. The one I was the most proud of was getting a perfect score in the English class by the end of second semester! It felt so great. At the moment that my teacher told me, I knew that all the hard work I put into my classes--especially English--paid off.
What do you want to do after high school?
I want to go to college. I like business and politics, so I am thinking of doing a major in accounting or international business, or perhaps business management. And if that doesn’t work for me, I might go into the medical field.
[This summer, I’m in] a program called Summer Bridge. It is about helping future seniors with their college requirements. In this program we go on field trips to visit colleges and learn about college life.
After I go to college, I’m just going to live life...to enjoy what I didn’t have when I was little. And help my family. I think that’s my life goal
Do you have advice for other children going through the immigration process?
The first thing that they have to do is start learning English. That’s a big step. [The second step is] to get to know the school system, for example, how the classes work, how the schedule works, how the grades work. Asking people about what you don’t understand helps you get oriented. The third step is to make friends that speak fluent English and practice with them. The fourth step is to practice at home and do your own research on how to understand the language better.
I would like to go back to my school later on and help other kids that had come from different countries like me and are having difficulties in understanding the school system. I would like to give them advice about how to adjust to their new environment, like a mentor.