Head of the Class

With his grades and high school activities, Pablo is an ideal candidate for college, except for one hitch: He's illegal.

One night soon after the game, Pablo was at home eating beans and tortillas when the phone rang. It was a freshman member of ROTC who didn't understand what was involved in a parent-teacher conference. "You just have to take your parents, " Pablo explained. "Or your parents can go without you, if you don't want to go." He elaborated on the subject with his habitual kindness; it was easy to imagine how he'd reassured the confused freshman on the other end of the line. It was also obvious that Pablo had become a leader, an example of the best kind of young person that West High could produce.

Just the day before, Pablo had represented his school at a speech contest held by the Windsor Gardens Breakfast Optimists Club. In his speech, Pablo had glorified his parents. "I love my dad because of what I learned from him just by watching him," Pablo said. "The quality that stood out the most was his inner strength and his ability to just keep on keeping on. My father is a very frugal man, because he has had to work very hard for every dollar he has ever earned by performing manual labor in a variety of industries. The greatest gift my father has given me is the appreciation of getting a good education so that I will not have to work as hard as he has had to. It is no wonder that my parents' dream is for me to be the first person in our family ever to graduate from college."

Pablo had finished his very first college application that week, applying to DU early decision. He was planning to apply to Boston University, Loyola and Metro, as well. As he sat at the kitchen table, he riffled through a stack of mail beside his plate. There was a letter from DU. He raised his eyebrows; it seemed too soon to hear back from the school. Pablo ripped open the envelope and scanned the letter, which was two sentences long. A counselor had advised him to assert that he was a resident of the United States on the DU application form and simply leave the Social Security box blank. He'd done exactly as she'd advised. "Your application states that you are a permanent resident of the United States," the letter read. "In order to confirm this, please submit a copy of your alien registration or 'green card' as soon as possible."

James Glader
All in la familia: Pablo works on the computer he 
shares with his two brothers.
James Glader
All in la familia: Pablo works on the computer he shares with his two brothers.

"That's weird," Pablo said. Since he didn't have a green card, he decided to take the letter to school, where he could show it to a recruiter from DU. "She's inside the system," Pablo said.

Maybe she could help him figure out what to do next.

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