Sergio’s Story of Exploring Life Beyond High School

“I think that if I’m able to achieve the path or the goals that I set for myself, I go back to the communities where I grew up, and I become that example for the next generation of Latino kids that look like me”

Meet Sergio

Sergio’s Education Experience

“The whole FAFSA thing was an issue. I think it’s a horrible experience, especially if you’re a DACA person, because you can’t apply, but there’s a whole bunch of processes for certain schools… where you have to check off that you tried to do FAFSA, which is very pointless for someone with DACA because they damn well know that we can’t.”

“In every classroom there [were] probably two, maybe one, other students that looked like me. That was definitely a little scary, and I had to get used to that.”

“That’s when I actually came to the realization I actually really enjoyed teaching, and that’s when I decided to, going forward, change my major.”

What Sergio Found Helpful

  1. Working in a space that allowed him to find valuable mentors and discover his career aspirations. Although his employment at a high school-based extracurricular program stemmed from unexpected obstacles during his post-secondary journey, Sergio characterized it as “one of the best decisions I’ve made in terms of my academic and professional path. Not only did it introduce me to education, and I realized that was something I was really passionate about and eventually became what I’m pursuing as a career, but I also met a lot of mentors, and I met a lot of people who are in very similar situations as I was.”
  2. Joining a community-based organization that allowed him to explore his passions outside of academics. Sergio attributed his ability to effectively manage his mental health in college to a Mexican folkloric dance group in Back of the Yards. “Ballet folklorico [is something] I enjoy doing in my personal time. I think it immensely helps me de-stress, doing something I enjoy doing and just having fun outside of school.”
  3. Remote learning as a student who commutes. Although the COVID-19 pandemic brought on many challenges for college students, Sergio said, “I kind of enjoyed [online classes.] But I think it’s because it suits the way I work. I don’t really mind being online as much as being in person… As a commuter, one of the biggest benefits was the fact that I didn’t have to commute for an hour, an hour and a half, every single day just back and forth to get to campus, which meant that I was saving about three hours a day of my personal time. Those three hours I now had, I was able to use them to do homework. My time felt a little bit more manageable.”

Sergio’s Aspirations for the Field

  1. DACA students have access to support from more DACA-knowledgeable counselors and staff at their schools. He wished more staff on his college campuses were better informed about DACA so he could receive the same level of support as other students. “I don’t think my [high school] counselors were very aware of what DACA was… I think my counselors did what they could, but I definitely think that there’s an issue there… they would be like, ‘Here’s a list of scholarships for Latinos,’ and it was already something specific towards me, but out of that list of 10 scholarships, only two or three of them and most I could actually apply for because they didn’t require me to be a citizen. Sergio also explained that, “People don’t know that it’s expensive. Every two years, I have to reapply for it, and I have to pay for the application, and it encompasses all these other small things.” The DACA application process can cost an applicant about $500. “And that’s just to apply… There’s always that fear. At any point [the government] could just be like, ‘Okay, whatever, we’re done with DACA,’ and that’s it, whoever was DACA will lose their job.”
  2. Students are better prepared for the challenges they might face in college outside of the classroom. Sergio felt that his schools did not sufficiently prepare him to develop the soft skills they need to manage their coursework, find and access on-campus resources, or anticipate all the miscellaneous expenses they might encounter, such as parking. Sergio also thinks students should be better prepared to navigate issues regarding tuition and financial aid. “I’ve never had a good experience with any of the financial offices at any institution I’ve ever been in. When you have to do school payments, it’s always a super complicated system… For example, many of the times, you have to pay off whatever you owe the school in order to register for the next semester. There’s always a delay, it’s very rare where there isn’t, and that delays your process of registering for next semester, and it causes all these issues.”
  3. Students who commute can access the resources they need when they are on campus. “I think [commuters] don’t know about these resources or these events to help with mental health until it’s too late, or they’re offered at a time where it’s just not viable for someone who commutes. [Some events] will be at 8 PM, at night… at that point I should be heading home because I don’t want to get home at midnight.”

Read other student stories of exploring life beyond high school:



The To&Through Project aims to increase high school & post-secondary completion for under-resourced students of color in Chicago & around the country.

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The To&Through Project

The To&Through Project aims to increase high school & post-secondary completion for under-resourced students of color in Chicago & around the country.