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By Daniel Alejandro Leon
Eighteen years ago, my mother made a choice that would change my life forever. She put me on a plane from Venezuela to Miami International Airport where she and I would meet up with my brother and sister to start our new lives in the United States. What we didn’t know was just how difficult our lives would become.
My mom, a 50-year-old woman at the time, would get on her knees to clean bathrooms and stay up countless hours sewing clothes just to make sure that we had a roof over our heads and food on our table. But the reality was that even three jobs weren’t enough to survive. But like so many other immigrants, she was determined to do anything to give me a better chance at life.
It is because of her that I came to understand the importance of an education and determination. It is because of her that I stand here today as a proud American that seeks justice for all of the people that have been and continue to be disenfranchised. And it is because of her that I learned what it means to build a community and have the courage to ask for help when you need it.
That is why I am asking for your help today.
I have been in the United States since 1st grade, and I grew up my entire life feeling just as American as my classmates and my friends I sat next to. But when I realized I was undocumented during my senior year of high school, it dawned on me that although I was American in experience, I did not have the same American rights and liberties.
The anger and pain I felt destroyed me. I had grown up in an American neighborhood, attended American schools, played American sports, and watched American television yet I wasn’t “American” enough to go to college. For the first time in my life, the kid inside of me was gone and my dreams had become nightmares. I watched my friends go to college as I just sat on the sidelines because my status wouldn’t allow me to receive support from the government or the colleges and universities that I had been accepted to. Even though I had graduated top of my class, I was forced to begin a life full of lies, working under the table and obtaining a fake ID just to survive. I had no other choice.
It is through the determination that my mother taught me, and the hope I have been given by those around me that I stand here today as a proud American. An American who is gay, undocumented and unafraid. An American who has gone from homelessness to being the first undocumented intern at the William J. Clinton Foundation. An American who needs your help!
This year, after finally graduating from college with the help of the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, I thought I would end up in some internship or under the table job. But, I was “hired” as the Chief of Staff to Michael Skolnik. For those of you who don’t know, Michael is the Political Director to Russell Simmons and President of GlobalGrind.com and this job is truly a dream job. However, the fact remains that I am undocumented and cannot get paid. So while I am working full time, living out my dreams, Michael cannot pay me.
So that is where you come in!
Legally I can receive donations, and I am humbly asking you to donate $5, $25, $50, or anything to help me reach my goal of $5,500 dollars. This money will be used for rent, food, and everyday living expenses and will allow me to continue working with Michael Skolnik in my journey to use media and entertainment to influence social change around the world.
I’m getting married to the love of my life soon and my legal status should change within the next twelve months. But until then, I need the help of my community!
You can check out my video and DONATE at http://www.gofundme.com/nycdreamchasing