Wilson Dreamer heads to Yale

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Wilson Dreamer heads to Yale

Photo courtesy of Andonny Garcia

Photo courtesy of Andonny Garcia

Photo courtesy of Andonny Garcia

Chloe Fatsis

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Senior Andonny Garcia’s childhood was pretty conventional. He grew up playing with Legos and attended Shepherd Elementary School and Alice Deal Middle School. But, as an undocumented immigrant, it wasn’t so normal.

“Being raised as a Dreamer, as a non-U.S. citizen, you’re always told you have to keep your status quiet; you can’t let anybody know because it’s very dangerous,” Garcia said.

He came to the U.S. from Guatemala when he was two years old, and has been able to stay under the protection of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Now he’s going to Yale University.

Growing up, Garcia was always curious about how the world works. While signing up for Wilson classes in eighth grade, Garcia heard about the SciMaTech academy and thought to himself, “Well, I guess I like making things.” He joined SciMaTech and signed up for the four-year engineering pathway. During Garcia’s freshman year, he loved his Introduction to Engineering and Design class and the teacher, Patrick O’Steen, so he continued with the program for the rest of high school.

Garcia also joined the robotics team, which has been a major part of his life throughout high school. He loves “the hands-on aspect of it where you’re constantly having to solve problems.” This year, Garcia was the captain of the team, leading the design component and serving as its spokesperson.

“He is an innovative engineer and an overachiever,” said Angela Benjamin, science teacher and robotics team mentor.

Benjamin has had a huge influence on Garcia’s life. “Ms. Benjamin is a great teacher. She’s really helpful with trying to find all the resources [and] all the teaching materials so we can learn,” he said.

“I have tried to be a mentor and a supporter for Andonny,” Benjamin said. “I supported and encouraged him to become one of our captains. I try to keep his spirits up when he gets stressed out.”

Being a Dreamer at Wilson hasn’t been much of a challenge for Garcia. “It doesn’t cause me any issues, I’ve rarely ever had to bring it up,” he said. “I’ve kind of gotten to a point where I’ve kind of made a name for myself, so I’m sure that whatever I do and if I get into any trouble, I can find help.”

Although Garcia doesn’t usually encounter issues being a Dreamer, he still works to make sure others don’t either. Earlier this year, Garcia worked with United We Dream, an immigrant-youth-led organization, to plan a walkout in support of a clean DREAM Act. This legislation would create a path to citizenship for certain undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children and would have no other measures tied to it, such as border security.

Garcia volunteered regularly at the Latin American Youth Center (LAYC) tutoring students in math and science. Garcia recalled a time when he was taught the Spanish words for math terms by some LAYC students since he had never learned them. “People were teaching me and I was teaching them,” he said. “It was like the language boundary didn’t affect me because I really wanted to help.”

When Garcia got into Yale, he and his friends were excited. “I was like, ‘wow,’ it was shocking. But at the moment, I didn’t really register what happened,” he said. “It didn’t really register until after. I was like, ‘Oh s***, I’m in Yale.’ ”

His first choice for college had always been the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), a school that is acclaimed for its STEM programs. When he didn’t get in, “it was a bit disappointing,” he said. “I was also kind of happy at the idea that I might be pioneering [Yale’s] engineering department next year—maybe creating a more renowned name for Yale engineering.”

Garcia plans to major in mechanical engineering with a minor in computer science. One thing that stood out to Garcia when he visited Yale was its engineering building. “Most engineering facilities are underground, really secluded and hidden, but theirs is like a giant fish tank where they have glass so you can look out onto people,” he said.

Garcia is also looking forward to being a part of La Casa, the Latino Cultural Center at Yale. “It’s kind of like the Latin American Youth Center they have here, except it’s a whole house,” he said. “It’s a really nice community.”

For Garcia, the next step in his journey is about more than just attending a top Ivy League school. “Going to Yale means that I can be a sort of role model for other undocumented youth,” he said, “to show that, yes, it is harder to succeed, but it is possible to achieve the American dream.”