Getting a full ride to Harvard is something most high school students can only dream of — but Dario Guerrero says it happened to him by admitting he was an undocumented immigrant.
The Washington Post recently published Guerrero’s Op-Ed titled “I told Harvard I was an undocumented immigrant. They gave me a full scholarship.”
As a 16-year-old California teenager, Guerrero was determined to pursue his dream of becoming an engineer. He tried getting into the best college possible — even applying to Ivy League MIT.
“I wanted nothing more than to conquer it,” Guerrero wrote on the Op-Ed.
But, his college dreams were crushed when his mother revealed to him that he didn’t have a social security number. His parents overstayed their visa when his family first entered the States years ago.
“I hadn't known until then I was undocumented,” Guerrero wrote. “I was 16, a high school junior, with big ambitions. Was I going to have to give them all up?”
Guerrero found out he was not alone. His friend, Oscar, was also undocumented. Together they researched what they could and couldn’t do without a social security number and what it meant for their plans of going to college.
“We knew that we couldn't legally be employed, we couldn't re-enter the country if we left, and we couldn't apply for a driver's license in California,” Guerrero wrote. “Gradually, we also learned that getting to college was going to be a much more difficult endeavor than our guidance counselors had explained.”
Despite his circumstances, Guerrero tried to get into MIT. He was flown to the campus for a visit only to be told he couldn’t be admitted after divulging his illegal status.
Afterward, he found himself in a “haze” walking around the middle of Harvard’s campus.
“Since I was there, I found the admissions and financial aid office and walked in to tell them the truth, too. An officer agreed to see me,” Guerrero wrote.
The Harvard guidance counselor told Guerrero if he were to be accepted, all of his financial needs would be met.
Months later he got a call from the prestigious school. He was accepted.
“This meant I wouldn't have to worry about student loans or quarterly tuition payments; that I always had a place to stay away from home; that I could travel every semester, on Harvard's dime, back to California; that my parents would never have to worry whether I'd finish school. Those are luxuries few people, documented or not, ever have,” Guerrero wrote.
In a statement to Fox News Latino, Harvard spokesperson Colin Manning said Guerrero isn’t the first undocumented immigrant to be accepted at Harvard. He pointed out several other instances in recent years.
“Harvard seeks and attracts talented students of all background from across this country and around the world, regardless of nationality,” Manning wrote.
Guerrero’s friend was also later accepted at Cornell.
Together, they created a website to share the story of their struggle with other undocumented students going through the same thing. They share everything they learned by e-mail, phone, and in person.
“I used to think that being undocumented was a disadvantage to me. I used to mourn the fact that I was different,” Guerrero wrote. “But ultimately I realize that it was because of, not in spite of, my identity – as an undocumented Chicano – that I was been able to do what I did. Being something different in the socioeconomic fabric of the United States gave me the perspective I have.
Matt Finn is a Fox News correspondent based in the Chicago bureau. Follow him on Twitter: @MattFinnFNC