Faces of Dreamers: Daniela Gaona, Johns Hopkins University

September 19, 2018

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This is one in a series of posts on individual Dreamers, undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as young children, many of whom are under threat of deportation following the Trump administration’s decision in September 2017 to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, or DACA.

Lack of funds nearly kept Daniela Gaona from achieving her dream of attending graduate school at Johns Hopkins University (MD) for a degree in mental health counseling.

Fortunately, between emergency aid from the university, a GoFundMe account, and the income from her job working with children with autism, Gaona was able to gather enough money together right before school started last month.

Gaona was nine years old when her mother brought her to the United States from Columbia, escaping civil war and domestic problems in their home country, according to a profile in The Baltimore Sun. Her mom applied for asylum status but never received it, and was deported this summer.

As a DACA recipient, Gaona is not eligible for federal financial aid and in many states, not eligible for state financial aid or in-state tuition, either. She and her mother were able to pay for her undergraduate degree in North Florida by working as janitors, house-cleaners, and receptionists, but Johns Hopkins came with a higher price tag than they could afford through work alone, especially once her mother was deported.

Gaona lobbied John Hopkins for financial assistance throughout the summer, and The Baltimore Sun helped bring the university’s attention to her issue. A few days before the start of the fall semester, she was awarded $7,500 per year of emergency aid, provided she maintains enrollment and good academic standing. Gaona is responsible for the remainder of the cost herself.

According to The Baltimore Sun, Gaona is thankful for the emergency aid and was “determined to get her degree even if it meant taking one class a semester.”

Read the full article here.

—Carly O’Connell

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