For much of her life, Estrella Medina has worried about this day possibly being the last to be united in Chicagoland with her mother, father, sister and one of her older brothers.
The fear that continually tugs at the 26-year-old Roosevelt student’s heart - of being alone in the United States while the four go back to Mexico - will not simply disappear.
However, Medina, who is the first in her family to go to college, can have assurance she is taking a first step toward important activism as she graduates with a bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies from Roosevelt on Dec. 15.
“I’ve wanted to be a lawyer in order to help my family, and this is my first step toward achieving that goal,” said Medina, a Wright Community College transfer student who currently works in a Chicago law firm.
With a near-perfect grade point average, Medina is one of Roosevelt’s best students.
“She came to the program with a dream of helping her family deal with pressing immigration issues,” said Carrie Lausen, director of Roosevelt’s Paralegal Studies Program. “She is quiet but studious, just a stellar student who certainly will have the grades to get into law school if she chooses.”
The only member of her immediate family who is born in the United States, and with permanent status to stay in America, Medina came to Roosevelt in 2015 following chilling experiences with U.S. immigration authorities.
As a teen, Medina remembers officers coming to her family’s Chicago-area home and threatening to send her father back to Mexico if they could not locate her older brother, who had been in legal trouble. The only one in the family who could speak English, she remembers having to contact a lawyer who at the time did little to help resolve the crisis.
“There’s this fear that you live with every day – that today will be the last day that we can be together,” said Medina, whose mother, father, sister and a brother have lived in the U.S. most of their lives, but don’t have legal status.
“Every day we call and ask each other ‘Are you OK? How are you doing?’ I tell them every day ‘I’m so thankful you’re still here.’”
Currently working in a law office, Medina took evening classes at Roosevelt where she believes the professors, many who are lawyers, have helped prepare her for the road ahead, including her plans to take the Law School Admission Test, and to begin in 2018 to apply to law schools.
“My number-one dream would be to be able to give my family legal status here in America,” said Medina, whose graduation from college is a milestone accomplishment for her family.
“I know that everyone is so proud of me, but for me I know there is still a long way to go,” she said. “I won’t be content until I can finish my dream, which is to become a lawyer."