By Karina Velasco and Ricardo Villalba, Adelante Program Case Managers
Gustavo Mura, 20, is a resilient young immigrant living in Langley Park, Maryland who is the embodiment of what it means to be a true fighter and a go-getter.
In 2012, Gustavo, then 16, escaped an abusive home environment in his native Guatemala. Gustavo fled to the U.S. where he went to live with his older brother in a house shared with several other tenants. Gustavo arrived in the U.S. with one dream: to get an education. What is an attainable dream for a young man in the U.S. proved not so easy for Gustavo. While he was eager to enroll in the local public school as soon as he arrived, his brother demanded that Gustavo start working right away or else Gustavo would need to leave the house.
Determined not to let anything get in the way of his education, Gustavo convinced his brother to allow him to enroll in school―a requirement of his immigration status—with the condition that Gustavo come up with the money to cover his share of the rent and living expenses. On a mission, Gustavo walked into a few stores in his Langley Park neighborhood looking for work. He struck up a conversation with the owner of a linen store telling him how much he wanted to have his weekdays off to attend school. The owner offered him a weekend shift where he could make just enough to get by, and Gustavo enrolled at High Point High School. Today, he is a senior at High Point with a new dream: to become an ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) teacher.
We met Gustavo in the spring of 2013 when he came to MMYC looking for help with his high school’s community service graduation requirement. From the moment we met him, we were impressed with his determination to get an education. He did not want anything to get in the way of his graduation. He got started right away with community outreach activities to help the Adelante program promote community events. Adelante is a collaboration between The George Washington University’s Avance Center and MMYC offering academic, health, and support programs and services to the immigrant community in Langley Park, Maryland. Later, Gustavo participated in some of our academic support activities, such as tutoring and Reaching Excellence, a college readiness program. More recently, Gustavo collaborated with Adelante by participating in videos and social media messages to create awareness on issues relevant to the Latino community such as access to mental health services. As we, and the rest of the Adelante team, have gotten to know Gustavo, we have been inspired by his strength and talent and have been amazed by his progress. When we first met him, he did not speak English. Thanks to his efforts and hard work, he is now able to speak and write in English. He is also fluent in Spanish, his native tongue Kaqchikel, and two other Mayan dialects.
We continue to work with and support Gustavo in achieving his goals and overcoming his challenges. One of these challenges has been affording the legal services he needs to normalize his immigration status. Recently, Gustavo approached us scared and worried about the ICE raids, afraid he would be detained and deported. In the process, we learned he was granted a juvenile visa in 2014, which grants him protection from deportation and eligibility to apply for a green card before his 21st birthday. Gustavo was not aware he had this option, because he had not had access to legal counsel. We are now helping him apply for LAYC’s DREAMER scholarship, a small fund for participants’ immigration fees, to help him cover the cost of the medical examination required for the green card application. We are also working to find resources to help him cover his basic needs and to move to a household that is safer and supportive of his education goals.
Even in the face of adversity, Gustavo manages to stay focused in school and comes every week to our offices to work on his homework. He has taught us the meaning of perseverance and hard work, and we would like to acknowledge him in this month’s youth spotlight.