For many years, undocumented teens struggled when it came to pursuing higher education, but legislation and additional resources have made an impact on many students.
Iris Carrasco was just three years old when she was brought to the United States and when she was old enough to set her own goals, she realized going to college was going to be a challenge, but nothing stopped her and she persevered. And now, she is sharing her journey to inspire others.
"What are you going to utilize your degree in if you can't work in this country legally?"
That is the type of question 29-year-old Carrasco dealt with as a young teenager full of dreams.
At the time, DACA, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, was not in place and although undocumented students could attend college, career opportunities were up in the air.
"It was very frustrating to know I am going to pour my heart into something and then still have that doubt whether I am going to be able to utilize my degree or not, " said Carrasco.
Carrasco pushed through the unknown and in 2011, DACA passed.
"It was the best day of my life because I had been waiting for something that would help students like myself," said Carrasco.
She was able to get a job somewhere other than the fields and was ready to complete her education.
She transferred from Fresno City College to Fresno State and in 2018 graduated with her Bachelor's Degree in Liberal Studies.
In 2020 she completed her teaching credential - and this year, received her Master's Degree in education focusing on instruction and curriculum.
A journey she says was possible thanks to the university's support, specifically from Gaby Encinas.
Encinas is with the Dream Success Center, which offers a safe space for undocumented students to get a helping hand.
"Is it difficult, absolutely, but let's give you the tools, the knowhow. In addition to being dreamers and undocumented or DACA students, they are also first-generation college students," said Gaby Encinas, Coordinator of the Dream Success Center at Fresno State.
Carrasco is not only a dreamer with DACA status, she is one of 6 siblings, a mother of 2, a wife and currently a second-grade teacher - and through it all, she is a proud Latina. She wants to inspire other dreamers to set their goals high and push through every obstacle.
"Take the courage from others, use me as an example," said Carrasco. "Don't give up on what you want to accomplish because your education you can take it with you anywhere."
DACA recipient earns master's degree, inspiring younger LatinX generations