Grad of the Week: Oakland Teen Overcomes Fears of Parents’ Deportation to Land a Spot at Yale
Throughout this month, we will be celebrating a high school senior who is graduating on our Facebook page every weekday. Additionally, we will provide more in-depth profiles of a few graduates right here on our website. Make sure to sign up for our newsletter to have access to all 22 profiles!
Lorena Ortega-Guerrero, an Oakland resident, is eagerly anticipating the start of her journey at Yale University this fall. She expresses excitement at the prospect of stepping out of her comfort zone, having spent the majority of her life surrounded by fellow Latinos in the Bay Area. Ortega-Guerrero looks forward to gaining perspectives from individuals who have lived vastly different lives compared to her own.
Nevertheless, just two years ago, this 18-year-old recent graduate from Holy Names High School, faced uncertainty about her college plans. This was due to her parents, who were residing in the country illegally at the time, being threatened with deportation.
Ortega-Guerrero knew that if her parents were deported, she would accompany them to maintain family unity.
Fortunately, an immigration lawyer successfully halted the deportation proceedings and secured legal status for her parents, enabling them to remain in the United States.
Education was always a top priority for Ortega-Guerrero’s family during her upbringing in Oakland. She explains that living near Oakland High School throughout her life made her realize that this was not the path she desired. They consistently strived to access any available assistance in order to attend private school.
Through the Children’s Scholarship Fund, Ortega-Guerrero was connected to the BASIC Fund, an organization that provides partial tuition funding for students to attend their chosen private schools.
Ortega-Guerrero and her younger sister were enrolled in various extracurricular activities by their parents, such as karate for self-defense, music lessons, and swimming.
"People would question my parents as to why they were investing their money in these classes," she remarks, highlighting the financial implications of her extracurricular activities. However, the busy schedule instilled discipline in her, which she subsequently applied to her academic studies. "I am incredibly grateful to my parents because discipline and time management have been ingrained in me since childhood," she reflects.
Ortega-Guerrero’s academic drive stems from a desire to show gratitude to her parents for the sacrifices they have made on her behalf. Her father works as a handyman, while her mother is employed as a house cleaner. Presenting her parents with an outstanding academic record is her way of "repaying" them and demonstrating that their sacrifices were worthwhile.
Their sacrifices have indeed paid off. Despite the past legal challenges faced by her family, college is no longer just an option but a reality. Looking ahead, Ortega-Guerrero aims to contribute and assist others. "I want to pursue something I am passionate about," she states, revealing her contemplation of a career as a civil rights lawyer. This aspiration is influenced by the immigration attorney who played a vital role in keeping her family united and enabling her to pursue higher education.
Previous notable graduates include Aislinn Vences from Colorado, who will attend Vassar, and Frank Lopez from Pennsylvania, who is joining the Army. To discover a new notable graduate every day this month, please like our Facebook page.
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