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Gloria Rodriguez ’22 came to Bloomfield College as a transfer student in 2018 from Essex County College, and this year will fulfill her dream of earning a college education which will bring her one step closer to her ultimate goal of becoming a teacher. Her life as a young child crossing the Mexican border with her family at the age of seven has left lifelong imprints that drive her to work hard and to advocate for others who were once in her and her family’s shoes.
“Growing up in the U.S., I struggled so much to make it to college. Though I was valedictorian of my graduating class at West Caldwell Vocational High School, it was not until President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) enabled me to get a social security number and apply for a driver’s license and work permit, that I saw a college degree as a possibility for me. As an undocumented person, I grew up knowing that I would not qualify for financial assistance or scholarships, and I knew my family could not afford the cost of a college education,” recalls Gloria. “It torments me to know that there are others like me who are highly capable and motivated, yet are struggling to achieve their goals. I want to advocate for us all.”
And advocate she does. As an Honors Program student at Bloomfield, Gloria is studying elementary education with a concentration in English and her heart is set on earning a living as a teacher. Up until recently, undocumented residents in NJ were barred from any profession that required a state license. It wasn’t until last year that the barrier was lifted after significant advocacy efforts. Gloria is an ardent advocate for DACA students which protects eligible immigrant youth who came to the U.S. when they were children from deportation. She has participated in rallies in Newark, Passaic and Trenton. She was a staunch supporter of Governor Phil Murphy’s 2018 bill for the Dreamers Alternative Financial Aid Application that provides for financial aid assistance to undocumented students. “Through the financial aid this bill allowed, and the scholarship I received directly from Bloomfield College, I was able to come much closer to closing the financial gap I had for attending college,” said Gloria.
She was a fellow of UnidosUS and Make the Road NJ, groups that advocate for occupational licenses for undocumented people, giving testimonials along with others to support a bill introduced by Sen. Nellie Pou to do just that. The bill was signed this fall and is in the process of being implemented. Gloria is also deeply involved as an Advocacy Corps Organizer with the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) that works to unite people across our 50 states to go to DC to be trained to lobby our senators for these causes. Currently, she is working to support the American Dream and Promise Act that will give a pathway to citizenship to undocumented youth and the Citizenship Act of 2021 that would give citizenship to 11 million undocumented persons in the U.S. Her lobbying efforts include Rep. Donald Payne, Jr., Sen. Cory Booker and Sen. Bob Menendez.
“When I first came to Bloomfield College, I was afraid that I would not fit in and that I wouldn’t be as smart as others, but my professors, some who were also first-generation college students themselves, extended their support to me and my confidence grew,” added Gloria. “I feel blessed and fortunate to be at Bloomfield where I feel at home and surrounded by professors who are there for me when I need their help. I want to thank my high school teachers, Bloomfield College faculty, my parents and Governor Murphy for his leadership – all without whom I would not be on the path I am in now.”