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San Joaquin Valley College Blog

Immigration status threatened success

September 18, 2013
Cristal’s dream is to open her very own hair salon, which she hopes to achieve with the knowledge gained from SJVC.

Cristal Rubio remembers what it felt like to watch her high school friends one at a time get their driver’s licenses and score summer jobs, while she pretended she didn’t need them. “I told them my parents said I didn’t need to work and my mom always drops me off wherever I need to go, because I didn’t want them to know that I didn’t have a green card,” says Cristal.

She wasn’t sure what it all meant. But, Cristal remembers her parents taking her back and forth between Mexico and the States until, with a temporary visa, they enrolled her in second grade. She didn’t feel any different from all the other kids in school.

But Cristal didn’t realize the full impact of what it meant to be a non-resident until she applied for college scholarships, only to find out her status disqualified her not only scholarships, but from receiving federal grants and loans, as well. “It was a phase in my life when I was really down and didn’t think I could do anything,” says Cristal. “I was an illegal alien.”

Cristal felt at a dead end. “I couldn’t get a scholarship, couldn’t get a degree…it was pointless for me to go to college,” she says. Scarier yet, “People were asking me, ‘How are you here?’ It is a big deal to have a green card and be legal here.”

When Cristal was nineteen she married Javier, and when daughter, Miranda, was born she decided it was time to work toward U.S. legal residency. Cristal got the news when Javier, who was in the military, was stationed in Iraq. “On my 21st birthday they (Immigration Dept.) gave me temporary residency, and after they verified all my information and we had our interviews they gave me final approval,” she says. Cristal felt the world open up to her.

Over the next several years Cristal’s dream of owning her own hair and nail salon was taking root. She and husband Javier added Paulina to their family, and while Cristal completed beauty college, son Javier was born. After a short 6-month break Cristal jumped right into SJVC’s Business Administration program in Hesperia. Her dream was so close now.

The first seven months of her BA program went well and Cristal usually made the Dean’s list. Now within 3-weeks of completing her program she is fighting to keep her momentum. “I hardly get to see my husband, I missed seeing my son’s first steps and all the other little things in our family time,” says Cristal. But she knew the BA program was giving her something important – and just in time for her dream coming to life.

In June Cristal opened Get Glammed, Hair and Nail Salon and credits instructors Mr. Patch and Mrs. Bastianon with giving her what she needed to make that happen. Her Business Capstone class was all about starting your own business and it filled in all the gaps for a successful start-up. “It teaches you how to write a Business Plan, Business Proposal, write a letter to the bank for a line of credit, Mission Statement, develop core values and how to promote products,” says Cristal. It even taught her how to hire employees, which she has put to good use in finding her new hair stylist and nail technician. “My teachers helped me a lot and it was something new every day,” she says.

Success is starting to feel pretty good to Cristal, but she doesn’t forget how long it took her to believe it could happen. Her message to undocumented residents is personal and heartfelt: “Don’t give up if you’re a minority and your immigration status isn’t legal,” she says. “And, don’t give up on education; as soon as you have legal status, enroll in college.”

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