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Meet Nayleny

First-generation college student. Aspiring Social worker. Women's rights advocate.

Meet Nayleny

Originally from Mexico, Nayleny is a first-generation college student, an aspiring social worker, and a huge advocate for women’s rights.

I see from your profile that you are first-generation college graduate (congrats!). What does your degree mean to you?

I am currently working on my bachelor’s degree in social work with a double minor in sociology and psychology. I graduated from Community College in May of 2019 with my associate degree in Art. I am the first person in my family who will receive a bachelor’s degree. My mother’s highest level of education is 6th grade, my father’s is 2nd grade.

Growing up, I was very aware that my education was and continues to be a privilege. I am a recipient of the U Visa and with that I received a Social Security card, work permit and eventually a permanent residency card, also known as a green card. This is important because without a green card one is unable to receive financial aid, and therefore I decided to attend community college after I graduated high school. I had to pay out of pocket at a community college; however, I was fortunate enough to qualify for in-state tuition, which made the costs significantly less. I received my green card in April of 2019, and one of my very first thoughts was “I can go to a four-year university now because I can receive financial aid!” I am currently working on graduating with my Bachelors of Social Work; I then plan on getting my master’s degree in social work to become an LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker) and provide therapy services to individuals, mainly focusing on kids and the Latin community. Mental health within the Latin community is something that is often dismissed or not believed. I wish to shed light on this and serve as an advocate for the Latin community and encourage them to seek the help they need, as well as provide those services to them.

We have been told you are a dreamer, how has that influenced your life?

The following is from an essay I wrote about DACA and I thought it would be fitting with this question.

My parents, like the 800,000 other dreamer’s parents, believed that coming to the United States was going to result in a better quality of life. These parents risked their lives and sacrificed everything hoping that they could ensure their children with the chance of getting an opportunity to have a college education, to earn a career and to become something more than the obstacles that life throws at them. Growing up, I always struggled with knowing where I belonged. Although Mexico is my native country, the United States is my home and it is all I have ever known. Being an immigrant is hard enough as you are faced with limitations but having to constantly worry about the uncertainty of your future is even harder. My siblings and I were in the process of filing papers to apply for DACA, until December 2011, when we were victims of an armed robbery. Although this was a traumatic and unfortunate event, it allowed my family to apply for a U-Visa, a document in which eligibility is given to those who have been a victim of crime or have been harmed on U.S. soil. Those who have a U-Visa are eventually provided with a path toward permanent citizenship, whereas DACA recipients can only receive up to a work permit. Even though my path for permanent and legal residency has been secured through my U Visa, the future of DACA recipients remains uncertain.

The United States is known as the melting pot because it is where people from different ethnicities and different pasts come together to live harmoniously and to be treated equally. Being undocumented is not a choice made by these individuals, but by their parents who were seeking a chance at a prosperous future for themselves and their children. The children who were brought unknowingly deserve to be acknowledged by the government as a member of our society. There is a very likely chance that the people we encounter in our everyday lives such as neighbors, coworkers and even classmates are undocumented. For these individuals to be judged and discriminated against based on their legal status instead of the contributions they bring to our communities is going against what America was founded on. Dreamers, just like any American, deserve the right to pursue their goals without having a constant fear of being separated from their family.

Tell us about a time you have overcome the nonsense in your life?

As I have mentioned before, I have struggled with my identity in the sense of where I belong. I have always felt I was too Mexican to be American, and too American to be Mexican. While that applies to culture more broadly, I believe that it applies to body image as well. The “ideal” Mexican woman is curvy, long hair, perfect skin. While the “ideal” American woman is petite, skinny, fair-skinned. I fit in neither of these two “ideals” and growing up I was very aware and self-conscious. It was not until after I graduated high school and went to college that I realized I do not need to fit either of these “ideals.” I have not weighed myself in over three years because I do not think a number should define how I view myself. Although I feel a lot more confident in my body, I would be lying if I said there are days that I do not. I think it is important for all genders to acknowledge that there will be days when we feel good about ourselves and days where we do not, and that is okay. We are human, we can feel, if we did not, we would be denying ourselves emotions that make us who we are.

What empowering message do you want to share with all woman?

Growing up, anytime I would fall and scrape my knee or hurt myself in any way my mom would sing me a song. One of the lines was: "si no sanas hoy, sanarás mañana.”, translating to “if you do not heal today, you’ll heal tomorrow.” I have lived by these words and I believe that it is an important part of growing as a person. Even if today is a bad day, there is always tomorrow. It is easy to give in and stop trying, especially when there are systems in place that oppress woman, minorities, immigrants and many more groups of individuals but it is up to us to challenge those systems. If we cannot fix them today, we can fix them tomorrow. If we cannot heal the world today, we can heal it tomorrow.