In 2008 I was ready to graduate as my high school valedictorian. The truth behind my undocumented status made it very difficult to dream about going to college. Catherine Chugranis, a high school teacher from Rockland County, made my dreams of obtaining a bachelor’s degree a reality. I had never met her before the days approaching my graduation. She looked for me in my classroom and asked me if I believed in God. Puzzled as anyone else would have been, I said “yes, I do.” I still remember the astonishment and ambiguity I felt when she said not to worry about paying for my education because God was taking care of it. Without asking for anything in return, she paid for the education I feared I would never afford.
Mrs. Chugranis is an extraordinary good-hearted woman. She has been a God’s blessing to many students in situations like mine. She has never asked for recognition or favors. She is my role model, someone who has taught me that selflessly caring and giving is a great way to change other’s lives and to impact society.
Yelky Perez graduated from Baruch College in 2012. Her activism on behalf of the New York State Dream Act is the subject of a MetroFocus report on undocumented students and college education.