A legal U.S. resident born in Mexico, Gonzalez attended The Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders in Austin. As a legal resident, she had no trouble applying to colleges, but she found out that some of her classmates were unable to do so because they had been brought to the U.S. illegally as children. Then, during an internship at Austin public radio station KUT, she discovered they could get the needed temporary legal resident status through the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, but at a cost of $495.
“That is a lot of money for a lot of people,” Gonzalez said.
In response, she launched the “Dreaming Together” project to raise money to pay the DACA fees for her classmates. She began by selling more than 200 T-shirts, and her project caught the attention of Austin media. She was interviewed on both Fox and Univision, sparking a flood of checks into The Ann Richards School.
“She had that vision to say, ‘Let me help others.’ She’s extraordinary.”
Jeanne Goka, principal, Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders
“She had that vision to say, ‘Let me help others,’” said Jeanne Goka, principal of the all-girls public school. “She’s extraordinary. She didn’t sit back and wait for others to help her ‘sisters.’”
Ultimately, Gonzalez’s project raised enough money to cover the DACA fees for her fellow seniors and for eligible juniors and sophomores.
“It made an enormous difference,” Goka said, “because the girls, through no fault of their own, would not be able to get their driver’s license, couldn’t apply for state higher education loans, would not be able to get jobs. It makes a huge difference for girls being able to go to college. She contributed to us achieving our goal of 100 percent of our graduates going to college.”
Now building on that achievement, Gonzalez is the first in her family to attend college. She chose ASU because of its size and relative proximity to home.
“Ann Richards is a small school,” she said. “We had 52 seniors the year I graduated. A lot of my school friends also came to ASU. I wanted to go to a small university where I would feel at home. The staff at ASU is really supportive and you especially have that opportunity to connect with the teachers that a smaller school provides. It’s a real community and people are more approachable here.”
Since her arrival, Gonzalez has joined ASU’s Association of Mexican-American Students and participates in Multicultural Center activities. A recreational runner, she has also met another personal goal, completing her first marathon in 2013 and a second in February.
As she moves into her sophomore year, Gonzalez has set her sights on another issue, the ills of drug trafficking, and is majoring in criminal justice.
“I had the opportunity to see that – the problems drug trafficking causes – when visiting Mexico,” she said. “I want to join the FBI or DEA. I like to be outside. Sitting behind a desk is not my thing.”
Even as she looks forward, Gonzalez continues to be an inspiration to others.
“Her good-hearted, caring and selfless act of taking action, of being a thoughtful leader, made me think about what I as a principal am doing,” Goka said. “It’s a real lesson in life, about how you learn from all sorts of people how to be a better person. She inspired me to be a better person.”