Amanda M.

On her Brooklyn school’s volleyball team, Amanda plays enthusiastically in the libero position, a back-row defensive specialist. Those players must have superb ball-handling skills; one coach has called libero “the toughest position in volleyball.” Amanda has brought that determination to her work at the Williamsburg High School for Architecture and Design, where she ranks 10th in a class of 132. One of her teachers wrote of her “exceptionally creative thinking.” Her counselor said that her “academic accomplishments are particularly noteworthy” because she grew up speaking Spanish, and, having been in this country for seven years, is classified as an English Language Learner.

“I was 10 years old when we made the hard decision to leave Guatemala,” Amanda wrote in her essay. The next day they began a trek of “three grueling months.” Amanda, her two sisters and their mother slept in the open, along train tracks in the cold. At one point they got aboard a freight – as the train rolled by “we had to jump, someone grabbed me, and somehow, we made the jump and found the will to keep going. When we arrived at the U.S. border and touched the soil with our feet, we felt instant relief. Our eyes welled with tears. We never imagined that what was coming next would be a continuation of our treacherous experience.” They were detained by the border authorities in a windowless room, but their mother told them things would get better.

Eventually Amanda was given permanent resident status. She had learned that “No matter what challenges I’ll face in the future, if I never give up there’s always a chance to achieve it.”

Amanda hopes to become a neuropsychologist, studying the brain, emotions and mental health.

Many thanks to Alexander Marson for supporting Amanda through her college journey.