Nineteen years to the day that Dr. Jose Luis Zelaya was reunified with his family at the border, hundreds of students and their families watched in awe on Saturday as he achieved what was once thought to be an impossible dream.
A profound silence filled the Hattie Mae White boardroom as the HISD graduate and DREAMer, who migrated to the U.S. from Honduras at the age of 13 after an arduous 45-day journey, was hooded by his mother and father to solidify his doctorate in Urban Education from Texas A&M University.
“My graduation is happening in this moment because of my support systems, because of the people that believed in me,” said Zelaya, who served as the keynote speaker for HISD’s fifth annual Dream Summit. “There will be times when you won’t have money to buy your next meal, but there will be people that believe in you so much, that out of nowhere they will help you.”
The HISD Office of College and Career Readiness and Multilingual Programs DREAM Summit is held each year to aid HISD DREAMers, DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) recipients, visa holders, permanent residents, refugees, and asylum grantees, along with their families.
Interim Superintendent Grenita Lathan encouraged the students and their families to take full advantage of the resources and sessions offered – and to continue to dream big for their futures.
“We are here today to help you find and understand those resources,” Lathan said. “We are here to help you reach your goals and help you stay motivated in your pursuit of academic success.”
Assistant Superintendent of College Readiness David Johnston applauded the more than 400 students and their families in attendance for their commitment to the future.
“I commend you for taking ownership of your education today,” Johnston told the audience. “I urge you to listen to the voice that says you have the capacity – and the brains – to attend college.”
Admissions representatives from many Texas colleges and universities were on hand to answer questions and host information sessions on the Texas Application for State Financial Aid (TASFA). The summit also included a college and resource fair, and a financial aid application lab for seniors.
The day ended on a high note for many students in attendance, including Vanessa Cruz Arreola, an East Early College High School graduate and University of Houston – Downtown student who came to the event to share her story and a special message in an effort to inspire others.
“Don’t give up,” she said. “I know that it is hard, and many people will say you can’t do it, but you always find a way to do what you want and what you know you deserve.”