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Meet Irais, SLI scholar

Irais (Huguenot High School ’21) is pursuing degrees in political science and Spanish with a minor in pre-law at Eastern Mennonite University.

Interview transcript:

I always knew that at some point I had to become that person, the person that I had in my mind because of the things I used to like, the things I like, about politics, helping the community, and being really active in our society, to make things better.

When I was in Mexico, I always wanted to go to college, that was one of my dreams. But when I came to the US, that dream changed because of my status at that time. I knew that it was going to be really hard to get into college, not only because of that but also because financial. I was just learning English, so it was really hard. It was like a dream. I didn’t see a future for it until I knew about SLI. I went to the meeting. I didn’t know English. I remember Dr. Kaufman there. He was trying to say my name, and I couldn’t say even “Hi” or “How are you,” because I didn’t know English. The same day Dr. Kaufman asked me if I wanted to be part of SLI, and that’s when my dream became into life again because I knew that there was hope there.

SLI was going to help me, and it did eventually. I’m here today thanks to SLI and Dr. Kaufman.

Many times people don’t look for help because they’re afraid. They think that there’s no hope. My younger self used to think that, that there was no hope because when I came to the US college wasn’t a dream anymore, and I met Dr. Kaufman and I knew that there was hope. I saw that. Never stop dreaming.

My major is political science and Spanish, and I have a minor in prelaw. I’m part of the SGA which is the Student Government Association, and I’m also part of LSA, which is Latinx Student Alliance. For SGA I’m part of the senators. I’m working on a project about having menstrual hygiene products for free in school. We look for what’s the best for students, and for LSA I’m just a co-historian.

I’m from Mexico. I feel like my passion for political science started when I was 12 years old and I saw a lot of injustice around my community, and that’s when I started reading about it, watching the news. I would like to become a lawyer first and then when I have the connections that I will need in the future, maybe become a politician.

My mom, when it comes to like my dreams, she supports me but it was also hard for her to think about me going to college because she also knew that there are so many things in the way to get into college. When I just came to the US she had two jobs. There was no time to express my goals or like my dreams to her because she has to work. SLI does have meetings where families can go and talk. She went to a couple of those meetings and that’s when she started helping me. She was like, “Yeah, you should do that. You should study.”

I have three brothers and two sisters and I talk to them. I’m always like, “I will support you if you want to go to college. I will help you to apply to any school that you want, and we will get financial aid, we will apply for scholarships, and there’s hope.”

When I was in high school I used to be like really afraid of talking in public or even talking to someone in the classroom. I was really really really afraid. It’s been 6 years. I feel more confident about myself, about talking in public, about seeking for justice. I used to think like, “Oh I wish I can be that person. I wish I can help others,” but at that moment I felt like I couldn’t help them because I guess I didn’t have the tools to do so. But now I feel like I have the desire to help people, and now I can help people, and I feel like the majority of that is because of SLI, because of college, because of the experiences that I have faced during this six years. So yes, I feel like I have changed.

Right now I’m taking flavors of the Hispanic culture, social economy and politics, American politics, comparative politics, international relations.

What would you say to yourself, or someone like you who is a freshman in high school?

To keep seeking for their dreams and their goals because it’s not impossible. It might be hard to do and to keep dreaming, to never never never stop dreaming about anything that they want to do, especially when it comes to college, especially when it comes to their future. They have the power and the ability to make it reality. There will always be someone there to help them. There’s hope, and there’s people just like SLI.

I feel like [SLI’s program] “Early College” helped me a lot because we had to write different papers for Dr. Kaufman and I had to write a 10 page essay about democracy, and like if it works or not. And that paper when I was writing about it, I was like, “Wow, it’s so many pages, so many pages about democracy.”

But in the long run I came to college and I have to write a 12 page paper and it has helped me because I write papers and I’m like, “Oh yeah, I know how to write in APA style or MLA style” because of SLI – and I actually got an A in my writing English course. I told Dr. Kaufman it was thanks to SLI.

Sofia and Alejandra were my [SLI] mentors, and I love them both because they helped me so much. I feel like that’s something that SLI does a really good job about, writing papers and having mentors for their students to ask for help.

I just want to thank SLI for all for the opportunities that they gave me and they are still supporting me through college. I’m really glad. Thank you so much.

You’re helping us. I can focus on school and not think about how I’m going to pay this semester, and it’s thanks to you, thanks to SLI.

Thank you so much.

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