A DREAMer With Big Dreams

Joanna Martinez Gutierrez was born in a small town in Mexico. Her dad was a missionary and was often traveling while she grew up. When she was 7 years old, she got in a car with her parents and moved to the United States. At the time, she didn’t understand what her dad meant when he said, “We’re never going back.” A fervent reader, she dreamed of being a lawyer. Once in the US, her dreams were often met with, “You can’t do that. You don’t have papers.”

“What scared me the most was that I wasn’t allowed to dream,” says Joanna.

Each year, approximately 65,000 undocumented students living in the United States for 5+ years graduate from high school. The College Board estimates only 5-10% attend college.

For those wanting to attend college, but are not eligible for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), there are other ways.

Joanna, for example, is currently pursuing her bachelor’s degree in Business at Texas A&M University San Antonio. She has had to pay zero dollars out of pocket this year. A combination of scholarships including the Cafécollege scholarship, the national DREAM scholarship, and the Texas Grant has helped to fund her college career.


Joanna dreams of owning her own company one day. “I know money doesn’t buy happiness, but it does obtain power. I want to use that power to actually make a difference.”

For other students in San Antonio who have questions about the financial aid or scholarship process, there are resources available.

P16Plus Council of Greater Bexar County, The Financial Aid Council, school districts, and college and university partners will be hosting a Financial Aid and College Application Phone Bank to help students answer questions about FAFSA, TASFA, and the college application process. Interested students and families can tune into Univision on October 12th from 4-8 P.M. to get the free call-in number. Non-US citizens and undocumented students can also find more information here and here.

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