Cecilia, 17, is a popular student at her
She plays the flute in the school band, which was important enough to her that she quit the school softball team to give it more attention.
Cecilia works hard out of school as well, putting in 20 hours a week at a grocery store. She volunteers with a youth service group in town.
Importantly, she's a good student. She was inducted into the National Honor Society this year.
Cecilia would like to become a radiologist and has had her
heart set on going to the
Cecilia is a credit to her school, her family and her
community. But she stands out in another way. She may be the only student at
her school to cross the
She's not a legal resident of
Anti-immigrant groups — most notably Secure Arkansas, the group behind a proposed ballot initiative that would make sure undocumented Arkansans don't get any public benefits — suggest that students like Cecilia are a plague on state coffers. In fact, her situation is rare. Her counselor said she's the first undocumented student at her school who's been aiming for college.
According to the
If there's a problem, it's Cecilia's. “She's one of us,” her school counselor said. The situation, she said, is “sickening. … She's really worried about the future.”
As a graduate of an
Then, after an Associated Press article reported that undocumented students might be enrolled as residents, Gov. Mike Beebe directed the state Department of Higher Education to make sure colleges had stopped the practice. Director Jim Purcell sent out a letter to all state-funded schools requesting them to include questions of residency, citizenship and the provision of a valid Social Security number on their application forms.
Federal law says schools may not offer postsecondary school benefits to non-citizens unless it offers the same benefits to all students, regardless of residency.
The governor acted hastily after the AP story was published, since it came on the heels of his own declaration that Secure Arkansas's ballot initiative was unnecessary because it duplicated laws already in place.
Cecilia and her mother and brothers joined her father in
When Cecilia was 10 years old, the family decided to visit
Three weeks later, Cecilia was in an inner tube with the man they'd paid dearly to get the family across the river. They landed, crawled up a high bank and ran a couple of miles across the desert to a waiting car.
Cecilia was eager to return. “We were in school. We didn't want to miss it,” she explained. Then she smiled. “Our vacation turned out to be longer than we thought.”
Going to UCA will be as neat a trick as getting into the U.S. Out-of-state tuition tags nearly $7,000 on to the nearly $22,000 cost of tuition, room, board and books.
Cecilia knows how to work hard — she makes the family's car payments, pays for her phone and helps pay family bills. But a college bill of nearly $120,000 is too much debt to bear.
Cecilia speaks with a