Making History: This Latina Is the First Undocumented Student to Earn a PhD

Mexican-born California native Gloria Montiel is breaking barriers and making history—literally. After becoming the first high school student from Santa Ana High School to attend Harvard in 2005, she has just made history in becoming the first undocumented student to earn a Phd from Claremont University.

Taking advantage of Barack Obama’s DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) initiative—which he enacted in 2012 to give undocumented students a chance to gain higher education, Gloria strived to prove her detractors wrong. Though the journey didn’t come without struggle. “I said, ‘I want to go to Harvard,” she recalled to Ed. Magazine adding that a former classmate in her freshman year of high school said: ‘Don’t you know Mexican girls don’t go to Harvard?” This heartbreak only drove her to pull off a “miracle.” Taking on babysitting jobs to cover the rest of her tuition, she did—graduating from Harvard’s Education Master program in 2011.

Montiel spent most of her post-grad life educating people like her who may not know that they have the same opportunities and rights to education as other students do—mentoring prospective students about the same lessons she learned. Gloria’s story is the same as many people like her in America, especially in the turbulent times we live in today. However, she remains hopeful and determined in showing those people that they have one thing left—hope. In an interview with Univision she said: “I hope my story gives people a little bit of hope at a time when people are living in fear. However, it’s also proof of what’s possible to achieve.” It looks like she’s on the right path, as usual, already. 

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