Five DREAMers shared poignant personal stories in front of a jam-packed audience in the Midpen Media Center TV studio April 23rd. Several storytellers used the box of tissues on the stage when emotions took over as they recounted experiences of growing up as undocumented immigrants. Audience members were dabbing at tears as well. There were also light moments and even a rendition of “Where Do I Go”, a song from “Hair.”
DREAMers are frequently mentioned in news headlines, but our audience, including Assembly Member Marc Berman, came to learn more about their lives – behind the headlines – and the unique array of external and internal challenges that they face. This was the second group of DREAMers that Midpen has recruited and coached in storytelling, thanks to support from California Humanities, Survey Monkey, and the Acton Family Fund.
Sarahi Salamanca told of the years she felt hopeless after high school when her pathways to a higher education seemed blocked. She recounted the turning points that led to her founding and building “DREAMers Roadmap,” an app that helps undocumented high school students find funding to attend college. She’s been written up in Forbes Magazine and invited to the Obama White House. Most importantly to Sarahi, she got to visit her mother in Mexico after 10 years of not being able to see each other.
Orlando Pineda shared about a similar hopeless period even after graduating from Columbia University. His turning point came in a job interview when the CEO told Orlando that he, the CEO, was undocumented and for the first time Orlando was able to admit his own status without embarrassment or fear.
The storytelling event was part of a larger Media Center initiative regarding immigration stories called Made Into America. Made Into America includes a popular archive of stories on the web where the video-recorded DREAMer stories will live. The site receives over 5,000 visits per month. You can read an article about the event in the San Jose Mercury News, here.