Undocumented student accomplishes the unexpected

Throughout her life Analilia Gonzaga pursued her passions and accomplished her dreams; little did her friends and the rest the world know, that she was keeping a secret. 

As an undocumented hispanic woman from Cholula Puebla, Mexico, Gonzaga shared with the students at Sonoma State University her and her family’s sacrifices, and the struggles she has overcome in becoming the leader and mentor she is today. 

“Analilia spoke in one of my community college classes and I will never forget how inspirational she was and how her experience has encouraged me in my life. I wanted her to touch some of the undocumented and other students as well here at Sonoma State the way she had touched mine,” said Treasurer of the Undocumented Club Evelin Sustaita. 

In our country, freedom and opportunity are available to all citizens of the United States, Gonzaga and many others that are undocumented understand first hand, that the road to obtaining these rights are not given but are paved with hardships. 

With the results from this year’s election, Gonzaga and many others are fearful for their future. 

“With these elections I’m not sure whats going to happen. We just need to keep strong and educate ourselves. Educate our friends and family in order to make better and wise decisions,” said Gonzaga. 

While living an undocumented life, Gonzaga dreamed of having an education of her own. Understanding her likelihood of going to college was slim to none didn’t stop her from taking the chance. Having been the second oldest to her four brothers and three sisters, Gonzaga’s family struggled for opportunity in Mexico.

While her mother was the first to leave Mexico in 1990, the struggle of traveling back and forth to provide for her family was too hard to carry on. It wasn’t until 1994 with only a backpack as luggage did Gonzaga and her family immigrate to the U.S. 

Gonzaga grew up in Healdsburg, California and attendedHealdsburg High School. Gonzaga excelled as one of thefastest runners on the cross country team andgraduated at the top of her class at the age of 17. 

Believing she had no future for any further education, Gonzaga had no plan to go to college. After multiple failed attempts she finally was accepted at the Santa Rosa Junior College, becoming the first in her family to pursue a higher education.

While there wasn’t any available resources, scholarships or information for undocumented students, Gonzaga used what little resources as she had in order to continue her education in college. 

She ended up meeting with a counselor who kept her secret as an undocumented student and was encouraged to apply for the Doyle Scholarship which was open to Sonoma County Residents. 

While learning english as her second language in college, she also became the first in her family to become a Puentista when joining the Puente Program. 

Graduating from Santa Rosa Junior College with a sociology major, Gonzaga was satisfied with what she accomplished. 

Gonzaga’s Puente counselor saw her potential and encouraged her to pursue a bachelors degree. With hesitation, Gonzaga applied to Sacramento State University and was accepted. It was her first time living away from home. 

Her mother and oldest sister worked very hard to help her with her first years tuition. Gonzaga saidher dream wouldn’t have been possible without them. Her struggles weren’t obvious as she joined sorority Sigma Omega Nu, along with another club that was focused on promoting hispanic rights. All of her accomplishments led her to graduating in fall 2003. 

What seemed impossible to most, Gonzaga overcame, especially when her next step became achieving her masters degree. With great determination through many challenges, it took her three years to complete her thesis. Gonzaga graduated from the masters program while still being an undocumented student. 

“Graduating with a masters degree was not an option. It was something I had to do. It has been hard and frustrating to see other classmates with their masters working in the fields that they love and receiving good money, that I cannot have because of my status,” Gonzaga said. 

Even though Gonzaga has accomplished her goals and fought to make her dreams come true she is not done. 

Currently she has gone back to school at the Santa Rosa Junior College so she can work as an independent contractor certified in the state of California, according to the newly developed SV 1159. While also wanting a counseling degree specifically in drug and alcohol.  

“It wasn’t until I was stuck in the parking lot on campus looking for a parking spot, that I realized how important it was to have your masters degree,” Gonzaga said. 

Despite her success with her education thus far, Gonzaga isn’t finished.

“I didn’t appreciate it because my mind was focused on the inability to develope my degree the way I wanted too. I am going back to college and am thankful because this is something extra I am choosing to do,” she said.

Her time spent at several colleges has shown her how important it is to have a support system for undocumented students. 

“I was surprised to see the Dream Center at Sonoma State because when I was going to college I didn’t have the support system that I needed to feel comfortable and confident. I think have that for undocumented students is a great asset,” Gonzaga said.