Gloria Itzel Montiela, 33, (yellow dress) stands at the border of Mexico and the United States with other Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients in a trip she organised to San Ysidro. Behind her, Maydelli Mendoza performs a spiritual healing on Basti Lopez.
Gloria says: ''A lot had happened regarding DACA in the last two months preceding the border visit, legal victories and legal blows. When I shared my own visit to my FB groups for my US anniversary, it was met with a lot curiosity and shock because people didn't know we could get that close. Also, Cristian (owner of food truck) let me know that he didn't know any other DACA recipients in the area. At a time when things are so uncertain for DACA recipients (because of COVID, because of the endless legal battle over DACA) and everyone is so far apart (because of COVID), we have to come together. Few other people know what it's like to have our lives turn into a political rollercoaster. This trip was not about politics. It was about creating community and giving my fellow DACA recipients the space to overcome the fear or that the border symbolizes for each one of them. It was about getting them to reflect how far they have come individually and how far we've come as a community.''
Gloria was a key figure in working with the Orange County Health Care Agency to allocate three million dollars to address COVID-19 disparates impacting Latin families across eight Zip Codes.
Gloria is a DACA recipient and an essential worker who was born in the small town of Coacoyula, in Guerrero, Mexico. She migrated to the United States at the age of eight and navigated the education system as an undocumented student. In 2005, she became the first student from Santa Ana High School to be admitted to Harvard College, where she earned her bachelor's degree in English and American Literature and Language. She later became the first undocumented student to obtain a Master of Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and the first undocumented student to obtain a Ph.D. from the Claremont Graduate University. She currently serves as Senior Grant Writer at the AltaMed Institute for Health Equity and has led the acquisition of more than 18 million USD in grant funds for community-led programs in public health.
''At some point I decided I was going to go to Harvard. I didn't know how or why. I don't even know where I learned about Harvard, but I decided 'that's what I'm going to do'.''
'' told her I'm going to go to Harvard, and she just casually said, 'Girl, Mexican girls don't go to Harvard'.'' (Gloria remembers the conversation with a friend from debate in high school)