Student Stories

Nayeli and Nancy G.

“I’m going to tell my kids that there are people who will give you opportunities but you have to work for it. And I will tell them the struggles of living in Mexico and the things we take for granted here.”

— Nayeli G.,  CATC graduate 2010, BTG graduate 2013

It was a big day in 2012, when President Obama announced that illegal immigrants could apply for  work permits if they had come to the U.S. before age 16, were in school and had no criminal record. “Mom woke me up, recalls Nayeli.  “Look at the news, look at the news!'”

Until that day Nayeli had had little hope of realizing her dream. She had watched the staff at Cincinnati Children’s help her little sister Nancy through many asthma attacks, had helped with the nebulizer at home, and set her sights on being a doctor and working at Cincinnati Children’s.

“We are nobody here, but we want you to have the best,” the girls’ parents had always told them.
But the family’s immigration status precluded applying for a social security number. Without work permits, the girls’ chance at the American dream was clearly limited. Still, “‘school, school, school,’ was always the mantra at home,” Nayeli says.  It was disappointing when, without a legal right to work, she couldn’t participate in the Bridging the Gap workforce program while at CATC in 2010.

Nancy was in high school and attending CATC in 2012 when the good news came. She had followed Nayeli’s advice to take advantage of the arts program there. “I told Nancy how CATC changed my life,” Nayeli recalls, despite her regrets over missing out on Bridging the Gap.

Nancy, too, had been inspired by the staff at Cincinnati Children’s. “I  loved the way most people there went out of their way for me,” she recalls. “I decided I wanted a hands-on health care career, treating kids the way I liked being treated.” For Nancy, Bridging the Gap would now be an option. For Nayeli it was too late–or so she thought.

While visiting CATC for one of Nancy’s student art shows, Nayeli talked with CATC Education Director Laura Greene-White, wistfully sharing her joy that Nancy, at least, would be eligible for Bridging the Gap. Nayeli didn’t expect a “do over” but that’s what she got!  Ms. Laura arranged for Nayeli to come back to CATC, now that she could work, for the next Bridging the Gap class.

So Nayeli joined the Bridging the Gap program as a CATC alumnus. Today she works at Cincinnati Children’s, attends Northern Kentucky University, and plans to become a pulmonologist so she can help people who have asthma, like her sister. Nancy graduated in 2014 and is working toward nursing-assistant certification. Her goal is to be a nurse practitioner.

“Without CATC, I would not have started a career,” says Nayeli. “CATC opens doors, but you have to earn it.” The family is doing just that.  “My dad works extra hours for me to be in college, no financial aid. He works Monday to Monday;  I don’t see him.”  Nancy and Nayeli plan to work while attending school for several years. For this family, a chance at the American dream is worth it.