Alumni Success Stories

Alumni success stories

Recognizing the success of DACA students

It’s important to recognize the success of DACA students who’ve earned their degrees and gone on to affect change in their communities in positive ways. If you know a DACA student who could be featured, please contact us.

Dalia Larios headshot

Dalia Larios
Dalia Larios was born in Mexico and raised in the United States. As she explored her passion for science and medicine, she used her studies to challenge herself and the world around her in an attempt to address inequalities impeding societal progress in vulnerable communities. In high school, Dalia graduated within the top 1% of her class. Despite her desire to use her studies to help communities in need, her longing to earn a college degree was threatened by her status as an undocumented immigrant. Nonetheless, she remained determined and had the privilege of pursuing a college education at Arizona State University as a member of Barrett, The Honors College. In 2012, she graduated with a major in Biological Sciences (Genetics, Cell and Developmental Biology) with a 4.0 GPA. During her undergraduate years, Dalia conducted research at the Biodesign Institute within the Center for Infectious Diseases and Vaccinology where she pursued projects in vaccine development. Ultimately, her love for science and disease, coupled with her experience with poverty and health disparities, led her to pursue a career in medicine.

Presently, Dalia is a fourth-year medical student at Harvard Medical School where she has continued to advocate for equitable access to education and healthcare in vulnerable populations. In 2016, she won the Robert Ebert Prize for Health Care Delivery Research Award for her work on designing a student-led health coaching program to improve health outcomes in complex diabetic patients. She is currently pursuing a career as a cardiothoracic surgeon. Through this field, she hopes to expand access within our healthcare system to underrepresented members of our society affected by thoracic diseases. Importantly, she would like her efforts to transcend borders by performing globally-conscious work as a surgeon and serving under-resourced communities abroad.

Oscar Vasquez

Oscar Vasquez
Oscar came to the United States at the age of 12. He was a member of the Carl Hayden High School Robotics Team who beat MIT at an underwater robotics competition in 2004. In 2005, Oscar enrolled at ASU, excelled academically, started a robotics team on campus, got married, and had his first child, all before graduating in mechanical engineering in 2009. Prior to the passage of Proposition 300, his education was funded by institutional scholarships. In 2007, that changed to the Sunburst Scholarship and then the American DREAM Fund. After graduation Oscar was not able to secure a job due to his immigration status so he did what the law said and self-deported to Mexico in hopes that he would return “home” to the US quickly. Over a year later, through the intervention of US Senator Richard Durbin, Oscar was able to return to the US to get his permanent residency. Oscar was finally able to pursue his dream of joining the military as a sergeant in the US Army where he served two tours to Afghanistan. He now works as a business analyst in a software development team for Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railways in Ft. Worth, Texas.

Reyna Montoya

Reyna Montoya
Reyna was born in Tijuana, Mexico and migrated to Arizona in 2003 fleeing violence. She is an undocumented/DACAmented community organizer, an educator, and a dancer. She is a 2016 Soros Justice Fellow, which enable her to start Aliento. She also serves in the first Teach For America DACA Advisory Board. Reyna holds bachelor degrees in Political Science and Transborder Studies and a Dance minor from Arizona State University; she also holds an M.Ed in Secondary Education from Grand Canyon University. She has engaged in local, statewide and national platforms to advance justice for immigrant communities. In 2013, she was the lead organizer, who prevented an immigration bus of undocumented immigrants from deportation in Phoenix, AZ for the first time in the nation’s history. In the same year, with the help of the community, she stopped her father’s deportation. She has been recognized for her work via several national platforms such as 2017 #NBCLatino20 and Forbes Magazine 30 Under 30 social entrepreneurs. She hopes to share her talents and skills with the community to co-create healing spaces, political change, and leadership development of our immigrant youth. Photo Credit: Axel Dupeux for the Open Society Foundations.

Germán A. Cadenas

Germán A. Cadenas

Germán Cadenas was born in Venezuela and immigrated to the US when he was 15 years old due to growing violence and division there. He was undocumented for nearly 10 years, and his experiences as an immigrant and growing up in poverty sparked his interest in the intersection of psychology, social oppression, education, and liberation. He graduated from McClintock High School in Tempe, from Mesa Community College with two degrees, attended ASU thanks to the American Dream Fund Scholarship, and graduated with two bachelor's degrees (psychology and business). He was also a founding member of the Arizona Dream Act Coalition and was involved in starting the resistance against SB1070. Germán was the first publicly undocumented student to be admitted to a Ph.D. program in Arizona, and his story garnered media attention. While a graduate student, he was involved in mobilizing the ASU community to support undocumented students and was in the committee that created DREAMzone. He also created the Poder entrepreneurship program, served as president of the ASU graduate student body, and coordinated advocacy efforts for in-state tuition for undocumented/DACA students. Germán completed his Ph.D. in counseling psychology in 2017, he spent two years as a doctoral intern and postdoctoral fellow a the University of California Berkeley, was a lecturer at San Francisco State University, and is currently a tenure-track assistant professor in the College of Education at Lehigh University. His research focuses on the psychology of immigrants and underrepresented minorities. He hopes to continue training culturally competent mental health providers and educators to work with immigrant communities and to continue supporting advocacy for immigrant rights.