This DACA Student Is Set to Become One of Dallas’ Youngest Teachers

Lead Photo: Jae S. Lee/The Dallas Morning News
Jae S. Lee/The Dallas Morning News
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17-year-old Melisa Simon’s life has been defined by obstacles. Having immigrated from Mexico to the United States at age 3, she realized that her undocumented status tested her in various ways. “The challenges that I face, since I’m not from here, it worried me that I wouldn’t be able to do something with my life that I wanted to,” Melisa told The Washington Post. “It hit me when my friends started getting jobs, and it was hard for me to realize.”

But, this never made her less motivated, and because of her hard work, she’s now on track to become the youngest teacher in Dallas’ Independent School District – even though she graduated from W.W. Samuell High School this week. Through Samuell Early College High School, she already has her associate’s degree in her back pocket. Melisa will start a new program at Texas Tech University titled TeachTech, where she’ll earn both her bachelor’s and teaching degree. By the time Melissa is fully certified, she’ll be just 19. TechTeach works with Texas school districts to place teachers in high-need areas, so she’ll find herself at the front of a classroom right away.

About four years ago, her future seemed cloudy. Her father had lost his construction job and couldn’t easily find another. Her mother didn’t work, and Melisa’s undocumented status made it impossible to find work. A family friend stepped in and offered her a job cutting up fruits, and though it allowed her to provide for her family, it made her question whether she’d ever have a career. “I would talk to my parents, who would always encourage me not to give up,” she said. “They had faith that the president would come out with something to help us.”

In 2012, it came in the form of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). She can still remember being gathered around the TV and celebrating the news. DACA hasn’t changed her immigration status, but it’s given her the opportunity to jump over previously unsurmountable hurdles. At the same time, her story dispels hurtful stereotypes about the undocumented immigrant community. “I’m proud that I’m achieving all of this because I can prove people wrong, and I can be an example,” Melisa said. “You just have to work hard for it.”