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Thao Ma

B.A Psychology, MN Chemistry
San Francisco State University, 2023

The educational challenges I faced ranged from status limitations to accessibility. As an undocumented student, I often felt disappointed when applying for an internship since many of them required a social security number. Since I don’t have one, I always had to withdraw from such internships. Furthermore, as an undocumented pre-med student, I can’t utilize the advice given to me by professors and upper classmates—who are documented and can go through a traditional pathway to internship and opportunities. Fortunately, since being a program participant of Pre-Health Dreamers, I don’t withdraw myself from internships anymore. Instead, I push myself to question the organization about its eligibility and requirements. I also find myself more confident in achieving my dream and seeing the reality of my goal being carved. 

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Nashelit Ochoa

B.S Biology, MN Psychology and Health Human Humanities
Chestnut Hill College

At Pre-Health Dreamers (PHD), I found a community of friends and supporters. Nowhere else have I been able to speak of my status without fear, and nowhere else have I received the same level of acceptance and encouragement. Coming from a campus with scarce resources for the undocumented community, I often felt alone and disoriented on how to navigate entering dental school, especially since I lacked the safe space to speak of my status. PHD pushed me to believe in my voice and continue finding opportunities. Thanks to them I built my understanding of pursuing dentistry, expanded my network, worked on my first research project, presented at my first conference, attained a friend that I hope will last me a lifetime, and am finding new opportunities through their dental group. I am extremely grateful for Yadi, Angeles, and my friend Andrea. I couldn't envision my college journey without them and PHD. I'm happy I applied to PHD's PEEP program and grateful to have been accepted.

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Alexis Perez

M.S. Biology
City College of New York, 2025

The status of "undocumented" didn’t register in my head until I started asking my parents if I could start working. The realization of the obstacles that came with this status came during my college applications while I was in high school. After seeing this, it felt like my world had become a lot smaller. It felt like I was in a tiny room, and my friends were able to move around freely outside this room, and suddenly I realized how alone I was. As ironic as it sounds, New York City, as diverse as it is, did not have many resources or safe spaces catering to undocumented or DACAmented students. Although this has started to change in recent years, the knowledge and experiences that I gained from being introduced to PHDreamers and participating in the PEEP program can only be considered priceless and life-changing. Through their support and connections, I will be pursuing my master’s degree in biology.

PHDreamers is more than just a provider of resources to people with different statuses, though. Yes, the plethora of resources can only be seen as a benefit, but through this program, they also helped me find something that I never truly found during my whole academic journey: a stable support system that didn’t just empathize with my struggles but also went through the same hurdles as I did—a community. There are no words to describe the release of pressure from being able to share my stories and hearing everyone share theirs without fearing backlash or judgment. The passion that the mentors and staff of PHDreamers showed during the program and conference to help people with similar statuses inspired my colleague and me to take on the project of creating a branch in NYC to allow others from my city to experience the same things I have. I hope to become a pivot for my future and that of my fellow PEEPs.

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Gabriela Silva

B.S. Biology and Psychology
City College of New York, 2020

As a first-generation college graduate and DACA recipient, I encountered a significant deficit in resources and institutional support while striving to attain a college degree, particularly in my pursuit of a career in medicine. New York City is a renowned city for its incredible diversity and one of the largest immigrant populations, yet it remains one of the areas with the least amount of resources available to Undocu/DACA students. Throughout my time in college, I had limited access to scholarships and was ineligible for federal financial aid, including Pell Grants and federal student loans, making the cost of my college education a constant concern. Moreover, navigating the difficult process of medical school applications was made more challenging due to the lack of appropriate guidance from pre-med advisors, who did not have the knowledge necessary to help students with their immigration status. Obtaining clinical and research experience typically required by medical schools presented another obstacle, primarily due to its scarcity and inaccessibility due to legal and institutional restrictions. Although with time I became better at finding my own resources, the constant discouragement and lack of mentorship in medicine were emotionally daunting and oftentimes made a career in medicine feel unattainable. It was only after graduating college, when I luckily encountered the Pre-Health Dreamers PEEP program, that I finally found a path that made a career in medicine feel achievable. This amazing program not only fueled my passion for medicine once again, but it also provided invaluable guidance, equipping me with essential tools and resources to advocate for myself and to become a more competitive applicant for the upcoming application cycle. Most importantly, I found a safe space and an amazing community of people who became like my family. This sense of finally feeling like I belonged somewhere was invaluable, and through sharing that feeling alone, my fellow PEEP colleague and I had the idea to expand PHD to NYC. PHD is making this possible for us, and through their connections, we are now forming a possible partnership with CUNY. Through this PHD-NYC extension program, we want students like us to feel a sense of empowerment, safety, and community. Together, we will change the statistics and make the immigrant community healthier.

Karen Cruz-Ruiz

B.S Public Health 

Pre-Health Dreamers has inspired me to pursue various routes of healthcare, including Public Health and Physician Assistant Studies. Through this organization, I was able to meet various individuals who, despite barriers set in place, have defied all odds by going above and beyond in their professional lives. Prior to finding PHDreamers, I knew very few individuals who understood the challenges of our prospective status. Now, I have a large community of people who I can and do reach out to for assistance and support. What PHDreamers has done for me is provide me with the necessary financial, professional, and personal information needed to one day achieve my aspirations of providing quality care for immigrant communities and assisting marginalized birthing people through the maternal and child health sector of Public Health. Truthfully, I was reassured that there are no limitations to my professional desires and that I am capable of achieving all my propositions regardless of immigration status– and as an undocumented latina woman, that means the world.

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