by Cristopher Rubio
It was during my second year as a high school math teacher in Southwest Atlanta that a knock on my classroom door changed my life. The 9th grade math teacher down the hall couldn’t handle Rolando and she probably figured that it couldn’t hurt for him to meet the only Latino teacher on campus.
As he entered my room, I said something to him in Spanish. I swear you’ve never seen a kid’s face light up the way his did that afternoon, just knowing there was someone like him. We quickly gravitated towards each other, probably because the school population was 99% African-American (we were the only two brown folks in the building). I tutored him in math after school, went to his soccer games, and even took him to a Lambda Theta Alpha Coming Out Show at a local college.
I’ll never forget when he said that I talked like “a sophisticated Latino.” “An educated Latino,” I corrected, “and there’s nothing wrong with that.” He changed schools after that year and sent me this wonderful email.
In May, Rolando sent me a video clip of him leading his peers in a walkout, in protest of Georgia’s immigration policies (that’s him in the orange vest). You see, Rolando is undocumented. The same kid that has passed multiple AP tests and is ranked in the top ten percent of his class may not even be able to attend college in this state.
A couple weeks ago, I received an update on Rolando, only this time from an organization called Dream Activist. Apparently, Rolando was going to be marching at the Capitol building, publicly coming out as an undocumented student, risking arrest and possible deportation. Well, Rolando was arrested for blocking traffic while making a demonstration with five other undocumented students.
I wonder how many of us would be brave enough to do the same thing? Brought here as a child by his father, his mother in a country that he can’t risk visiting, politicians calling for him to be sent “back home,” and he’s still fighting for his place in this country.
You go into education hoping to make a difference in the lives of our youth. You never really think that they’ll be the ones that end up making a difference in your life. It’s hard for me to describe what Rolando means to me, how his struggle has made me value my privileges as a U.S. citizen. I can go to sleep every night without the fear of being deported and being separated from my family.
I recently asked Rolando what he wanted people to know about undocumented students. He replied:
“We are not here to take Americans’ jobs. We did not ask to enter this country. We do not want benefits from the government, we just want to be recognized as what we are, Americans.”
Well I’ll be damned, my little Rolando sounds like a sophisticated Latino.
Thank you for everything you do Rolando, let’s pass the DREAM Act.
To learn more about Cris, visit ElKaminoReal.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those
of the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.