Cynthia Martinez from Sanford, NC wants to share her graduation story with you.

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My name is Cynthia Martinez and I graduated class of 2009 from Lee County High School in Sanford, N.C. I graduated with honors and as 1 of 2 Hispanic members of the National Honor Society. I was ranked 30th out of 404 students with a 4.01 GPA. I received a scholarship to St. John’s University, but because of my legal status, the only scholarship I could receive was $15,000. But mind you, a year of study there for my chosen major was $52,000. The difference as you can see, is a real big one. Putting a burden like that on my parents touched my heart, so I looked for other options.

I soon applied to Central Carolina Community College but to my dismay, I received a letter stating that because I was “an illegal alien, they were not obligated to allow me into their school.” That was my first taste of the discrimination that was soon to overtake many more communities.

Seeing no clear path as to my educational future, graduation began to seem very glum to me. I was no longer looking forward to graduating because I no longer knew what my future held. I saw everyone around me excited to be going to school and receiving scholarships and what not to places I knew that had my situation been different, I most definitely could have gone to. I saw people being awarded scholarships that I knew, had I had the chance, I could have received but I got nothing.

After graduation and two weeks vacation in Texas to “get my mind off things,” I began to work full time at McDonalds. Soon after that I was offered training to become part of the management program there which I took happily! McDonalds offers classes which they pay for and pay the employee to go to in order to learn proper business practices. Once you attend all your classes, they can transfer to college credit courses and one could have received their associates in business administration.

Business Administration was not my chosen major, but for now, having the opportunity to learn more into depth as to the ever-growing McDonald’s corporation sheds some light in my heart. For two years now since my graduation, the only form of learning that I have are these classes and while I am thankful for it, I can’t help but wish for more towards my educational future. So yes, I am undocumented, and because I lack a 9-digit number, I am not given the chance to further my dreams and enhance my education. A number. A number is what stops me–an accident of birth, even. We sit back and read the history of this country and we “aw” at the ridiculousness of some of the things people had to go through to be accounted for and what they did to make a difference and now I sit here dumbfounded at times to see how ridiculous it is that my life and thousands of others is being dictated by the presence of a 9-digit number!

What happened to “the land of opportunity?”