Trail of Dreams!
Trail of Dreams is composed of four students from Florida, Felipe Matos, Gaby Pacheco, Carlos Roa, and Juan Rodriguez , S.W.E.R members who have set off on a journey from Miami to Washington, D.C. They were brought to the United States by their families when they were young but because of their immigration status, they’ve spent their childhoods in fear and hiding, unable to achieve their full potential. They walked in order to share their stories and to call on leaders to fix the system that forces people like them into the shadows, stripping them of the opportunity to participate meaningfully in society.
Felipe Matos, 24
Felipe is ranked one of the top 20 community college students in the United States. In addition to his educational excellence, Felipe also found time to serve his peers as student government president of Miami Dade College. Born to a single mother in the slums of Brazil, Felipe was sent at age 14 to the United States, where he first dreamed of becoming a teacher. But though he has the intelligence and drive, his immigration status has prevented him from achieving this dream. Felipe has been accepted by many top colleges, but he is barred from getting financial aid. He is currently studying economics in community college, but still hopes that one day he will be able to teach young people, because he believes education is the key to pulling people out of poverty.
Gaby Pacheco, 25
Gaby was declared a “gifted student” at a very young age and has since excelled at all levels of school. In the process of securing three education degrees at Miami Dade College, she has realized what she wants to do with her many talents and education: use music therapy as a communication tool to teach autistic children and adults. Gaby came with her parents to the U.S. from Ecuador in 1993, when she was 7 years old. In 2006, federal immigration agents raided her home, and Gaby’s family has been fighting deportation ever since. She has an AA in Music Ed. AS in Early Childhood education, and a BA in Special Education K-12.
Carlos Roa, 22
Carlos was willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for his country: joining the military in a time of war. But like many other undocumented students, Carlos could not realize this or any other dream – a college education, a job as an architect – because of his immigration status. Carlos was brought to the United States by his family when he was only 2 years old. High school was difficult for him and, after his mother died from a 10-year battle with cancer, he began searching for community. He wrote an impassioned letter about how lost he felt, posted it on websites, and shared it with everyone in his network. In that process he found his fellow walkers, who helped him get into Miami Dade College where he is studying architecture. While happy to be in school, Carlos still worries that as an undocumented student he won’t be able to put his education to use in a good job.
Juan Rodriguez, 20
Like many young people in Florida, the home of NASA, Juan grew up dreaming of becoming an aerospace engineer. His family brought him to the U.S. on a tourist visa from Colombia when he was 6 in response to threats to their safety in their homeland. Juan was a top student in school, but got discouraged when he realized that no matter how good his grades were or how many hours of community service he did, he could never realize his dream. Last year, Juan’s step-mother helped him to finally become a U.S. resident. As the only walker that has legal residence and as a formerly undocumented student, he feels a special responsibility to help people understand both the challenges and the opportunities facing students like him. His new dream is to earn a degree in sociology from the University of Chicago so he can go to work improving communities and helping people directly.