Alumni Success Stories

Alumni success stories

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Recognizing the success of DACA and undocumented students

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

Dalia Larios headshot

Dalia Larios

Dalia Larios is a student at Harvard Medical School and has completed her third year of clinical training. She began her educational journey in Mesa where she graduated from Dobson 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 with the support of the American Dream Fund. In 2012, she graduated with a major in Biological Sciences (Genetics, Cell and Developmental Biology) with a 4.0 GPA from Arizona State University and as a scholar of Barrett, The Honors College. During her undergraduate years, Dalia conducted research at the Biodesign Institute in the Center for Infectious Diseases and Vaccinology and began exploring the various dimensions of human health through community involvement.

After graduation, she continued exploring clinical medicine as a medical interpreter in underserved settings and through her work as a clinical lab scientist. As a student at Harvard Medical School, she won the 2016 Robert Ebert Prize for Health Care Delivery Research for Service for her work on “Students as health coaches and change agents at Brookside Community Health Center: A tool to improve health outcomes in diabetic patients.” She graduated in May 2019 and is now a Clinical Fellow in Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston; her career goal is to become a thoracic surgeon and treat patients with diseases such as lung cancer.

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 U.S. 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 enabled 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.