"It's a really warm feeling when someone thanks you from their heart like that."
Photos by Megan Monday
Christian | UW-Oshkosh, WI
"I was born in Texas but I moved to Wisconsin when I was one or two, really young. I lived a lot of my life here, but we would bounce north to south, depending on family-related stuff. There were times where we were low on money, so we'd go to where we had family. Back and forth.
I have a bunch of siblings. Five, in fact. So I was always helping to care for them. Moving a lot kind of shook things up for them, and so I always tried to just be there and be helpful. Really I think that’s what got me interested in nursing—just taking care of my family.
Right now I’m in school to become a nurse, and I’m also working weekends as a CNA at a nursing home. When I start, I go around and tell everyone, ‘Hey, I'm on the shift. If you guys need anything, just let me know. Whatever it might be.’ There’ve been times where before I leave their room for the night, they stop me and they're like, ‘Hey, I just wanted to say thank you. You're really good at what you do. I really just want to say thank you for all the help you've been giving me.’ It's a really warm feeling when someone thanks you from their heart like that. I'm like, ‘All right!’ It feels nice to know that I'm doing right by someone."
"I was pretty young when I realized that my parents never had ‘nice’ jobs. A lot of my friends would take vacations or have really nice things in their houses. I was confused as a kid, like, ‘Why don’t we have all those things?’
Then I realized that my parents were undocumented, and they didn't have access to ‘nice’ jobs. So at that young age I was like, ‘All right, so maybe life is not about having the nicest car, the nicest phone, the nicest house.’ I mean, really, it's about your experiences and the way you love others, right?
But I know being undocumented is a big source of stress for them. When I was younger we’d have family gatherings, cookouts with my aunts and uncles with all my little cousins running around. I would eavesdrop on their conversations about the fears they had. It’s a sad and hard reality that if they ever get pulled over, they could get into a situation that could affect our entire family. The way I've been seeing it is like, ‘Okay, if my parents get caught by the police and the authorities decide to send them back to Mexico, then...whoa. I have a lot of siblings to look after.’ I’d be essentially their father figure. It’s a lot of responsibility, but I’m building myself up in case I ever need to step up."
"My parents were born in Mexico. My dad didn’t graduate high school, and actually I'm the very first person in my family to ever go to college. My parents are very supportive. They were like, ‘Go to college, that's our dream!’ I know it means a lot to them, so at first I applied to make them proud. Now it means a lot to me, too.
When I came to college, I went through a program called TAPS. It’s for entering freshman and it focuses on helping integrate first generation or minority students, but really it’s for anyone that wants a head start at college. It was a very intense program, but I liked it a lot because I learned a lot about myself, developed study methods, good habits, and met new people so I got a social base, which is cool. Now I’m a junior and a peer mentor for the TAPS program. We try to help new students feel like part of the community, which is really important when they’re here by themselves with no parents, right out of high school.
For me, college is a gateway for my whole family. It’s a risk for my parents to be here, but they have given me this opportunity to set myself up for a good life. I hope I make them proud."
-Christian | UW-Oshkosh, WI