Texarkana Dreamer

TEXARKANA DREAMER BY MOLLY RI LEY PHOTO BY MOLLY KENDR ICK

SPONSORED BY ERA RAFFAELLI REALTORS

T E X A R K A N A M O N T H LY

AT SIX YEARS OLD,

with dreams of the big city, a small child traveled many miles to start a life in a country offering endless opportunities and new beginnings. Michelle Madrid recounts the journey from her home in Honduras to the United States. Michelle grew up in San Pedro Sula Cortes, Honduras. She lived in a household with her mother, sister, and two uncles. The home would be comparable to a duplex in the United States, with Michelle’s grandparents sharing the other side. “Money was tight, and conditions were not the best,” Michelle explains. “Most of the time we didn’t have a lot of food.” She smiles and adds, “but everyone would pitch in, and we made it work.” As Michelle and her sister grew up, their mother became more concerned about their education, and for their future. Education in Honduras is very different from the U.S. It isn’t free. What is referred to as “public” school and is thought to be a requirement for school- aged children in the U.S., is a costly privilege to residents of Honduras. Michelle’s mother knew she wanted better for her children than

what she could afford them as a single mother in Honduras. Having previously lived in the United States, she knew the opportunities the U.S. offered, and the sacrifices she needed to make as a parent, for her children to have a better life. Michelle’s mother arranged for her sister to travel to the U.S. first, where she had friends who were willing to welcome her daughter with open arms. Michelle’s sister was 13 years old and in need of a proper education. Many probably can’t imagine sending their child to a foreign country by themselves. However, as a parent, you must make hard decisions which are often unpopular. It was probably one of the scariest decisions she’s ever made, but the benefits far outweighed her reluctance. Faith has always been a guiding force in the Madrid family. Michelle recalls her Mother saying, “God is going to be watching over us, and hopefully we will get there.” The time had come for Michelle and her mother to make their journey from Honduras to the U.S. It took a month of traveling across 2,100 miles, mainly by bus, but

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(2003) Michelle’s last last Christmas in Honduras with her sister Katherine before coming to the U.S.

they arrived in the States. The small town of Hope, Arkansas, was a big change of scenery from what Michelle was used to, and from what she had expected. Michelle recalls, “I thought we would arrive in a big city with high-rise buildings.” Michelle’s mother briefly lived in California many years before. She often shared with her daughters, her love for America and scenic imageries of the Golden State. “It was completely different than what I expected,” Michelle says. In fact, after arriving in Gurdon, Arkansas, where they would live, Michelle remembers asking her mom, “Is this just a stopping point or are we going to keep going?” “No,” her mother replied, “this is it.” Michelle laughs as she recounts this childhood memory. After arriving in the States, Michelle was quickly enrolled in school. She attended first through fifth grades in the Hope Public School District. It was during this time that she learned the English language and began speaking it fluently. Michelle says she attributes this to her English as a Second Language (ESL) class

and her teacher, Ms. O’Connell. Michelle later moved and began attending the Texarkana Independent School District, where she graduated in 2016. The following years, Michelle really hit her stride. Though many of her friends had gone off to college, Michelle was excited to enroll at Texas A&M University-Texarkana. She looked forward to beginning her freshman year of college and about all the opportunities TAMU-T offered. It was during her freshman orientation that she stumbled upon Alpha Sigma Alpha. Michelle was inspired by the opportunities this organization presented, including volunteering, meeting new friends, and leadership roles. At the time, they were only considered a “colony.” It was only after Michelle joined and through her involvement, that Alpha Sigma Alpha at Texas A&M University- Texarkana was designated an official sorority chapter! Michelle worked hard toward the completion of her classes and graduated this past spring with her Bachelor of Science in Psychology, with a minor in Criminal Justice. Michelle says of her time at TAMU-T, “I made

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friends I probably would have never made and met some of the best professors. There were so many opportunities there!” Lemony Snicket, also known as Daniel Handler, once said, “I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed this, but first impressions are often times entirely wrong.” Michelle may not have had the best first impression of the United States based on the expectations she had as a small child, but as an adult, her impression has changed drastically. When asked what her perception of the United States is now, Michelle, without hesitation responded, “I love it! I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else!” Michelle is a quiet, kind, God-fearing, educated, and hardworking individual. She came into this country with dreams of the big city, and now her DREAMer status is recognized by the entire nation. Americasvoice.org defines a “DREAMer” as an immigrant youth who qualifies for the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act. The DREAM Act is a piece of legislation first introduced to Congress in 2001. It would create a pathway to citizenship for immigrant youth, brought to the United States as children without documentation. In so many ways, Michelle has proven she is a DREAMer and so much more! This word could never entirely define her! “When you get to know a lot of people, you make a great discovery. You find that no one group has a monopoly on looks, brains, goodness or anything else. It takes all the people, black and white, Catholic, Jewish and Protestant, recent immigrants and Mayflower descendants to make up America,” Judy Garland once said. Wiser words may never have been spoken.

(2017) Christmas with her mother, Marcela Martinez and her sister Katherine.

Michelle’s 4th birthday party with her sister, cousins and friends at her home in Honduras.

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WELCOME HOME!

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