Ana Miriam Barragan: From DREAMer to Achiever

Ana speaks about her life, challenges, and dreams in this recording.

Ana is a 23-year-old who grew up in a small village in Jalisco, Mexico. She tells me that her “first gift” in life was given to her unintentionally when she immigrated to the United States at the age of 10. Originally destined to limited educational prospects, she was pushed to become an ambitious learner by parents who lacked basic education, but emphasized hands-on learning, folk culture, and the daily cultivation of lived personal values. Whether working in the fields with her family, or as a dishwasher, she found community who collaboratively engaged in using difficult life experiences as opportunities for transformation and learning.

Ana’s story exemplifies the power of connected learning. Despite her dislike of formal schooling and her preference for “learning by doing,” Ana’s academic success speaks to her bright mind and ability to strategically study for the test and to work for the “4.0.” Although Ana had teachers and a counselor who helped along the way in middle and high school, it was primarily her immediate family members who supported and cultivated expectations for academic achievement and a college education. While in college she began to explore her “immigrant identity”. She developed deep friendships in an undocumented student group, that modeled positive self-worth, political efficacy, and sense of personal identity by declaring their status openly and “coming out”. Ana’s peers supported her as she began to redefine the stigma of her immigration status by turning it into her primary passion and, thus, transforming her life by becoming a politically engaged citizen and an active learner. Ana’s connected learning pathway illustrates the complementary way in which the different spheres in Ana’s life — school, civic, personal passion, family/peer culture — along with her hands-on, active, and entrepreneurial learning disposition, linked together to help her achieve her goal of graduating from college and finding professional employment.

Ana says that her second biggest gift in life was the June 2012 announcement by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), which made it possible for eligible youth to obtain a work authorization, and in some states, a driver’s license and a social security number for a period of two years. Since Ana is DACA-mented, she has been able to pursue a career in higher education, counseling undocumented immigrant students to navigate the intricacies of college life.

Although it hurts to reveal her story, Ana sees it as a way of reflecting and healing, but also shares in the hopes that other people will hear it and understand that it’s critical to listen to each other’s stories to nurture compassion in the face of universal and persistent personal life struggles.

Who is Ana?

Ana Miriam Barragan is the DREAMers Coordinator, Student Outreach and Retention (SOAR Center), at the University of California, Irvine.

Cover Image: Dream Activist 164, Flickr