A Secret Revealed: Achieving A Hard-won Dream

By Lee Lewis Husk

Thalia Delgado, 23, spent years living in fear of deportation. Mexican by birth, American by any other standard. Brought to the United States at a year-and-a-half, Thalia Delgadoshe was raised by a single mother who emphasized academics. She graduated from high school with high marks and a full ride to George Fox University. She completed her first bachelor’s in three years by pushing herself, even taking 21 credits in one semester. “I felt selfish staying any longer, knowing that my scholarship could go to another student in need,” she explains.

Ultimately, Delgado found nursing through the birth of her sister. Her mother, 41, had pre-elampsia; however, mother and baby did well during delivery. “The nurses were amazing,” Delgado says. “They were compassionate and caring, and one nurse volunteered to stay extra. She planted the seed in my head, telling me that I should pursue nursing. She changed the trajectory of my life.”

In 2012, Delgado was accepted into the accelerated baccalaureate program and with that came a new worry: how to afford tuition. She worked full time during her first term and saved $6,000, plus her mother offered her lifesavings of $2,000.”  But she was short of the full tuition.

“I wasn’t going to be able to do this alone,” she remembers thinking. “I connected with an OHSU professor that I felt I could trust. I broke down and told her my situation. I didn’t want to give up my dream of becoming a nurse.”

That trust was well founded – eventually leading to Peggy Wros, Ph.D., R.N., senior associate dean for student affairs and diversity, who had previously worked with undocumented students. “She was so compassionate and started talking to others at the university, telling them about our struggles. She advocated for me. I owe my entire career to her.”

After an anxious few months of waiting, she learned that the university had a newly established President’s fund scholarship for underrepresented minority students that would help students like Delgado.The scholarship gave Delgado peace of mind and the opportunity to focus on her studies.

She graduated in 2013 and landed a position in the women’s and children’s services department at Salem Health hospital. She’s in a six-month paid residency with a two-year contract after completion. “It’s really affirming. I’ve come full circle from my initial experience that ultimately led me to nursing.” she says. “I can return the care and compassion my mother and family received throughout her birth experience.”

She still can’t plant herself permanently in U.S. soil. She’s part of the group known as “the dreamers,” undocumented individuals brought to the United States before 16 and who, among other requirements, have good moral standing, have graduated from an American high school, and are often pursuing higher education. Under President Obama’s executive order titled DACA (deferred action for childhood arrivals), she can now work legally for two years with a renewable temporary work permit but still has no pathway to citizenship until Congress passes larger immigration reform.

“Although I am still living in uncertainty, I can pursue my passion without the daily fear of deportation, and live the American dream that I have worked hard to achieve.”


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