If you’re a DREAMer, an undocumented immigrant youth who came to the U.S. at a young age, you’ve likely encountered endless hurdles when it comes to your education.
That said, if you’re anything like Hope, your legal status hasn’t slowed your drive to succeed.
Understandably, some DREAMers aren’t big on drawing attention to themselves, so we’re not sharing much identifying information about 19-year-old Hope (that’s not her real name), who came to the U.S. at a young age, lives in a very mixed-status home and has a smile that can light up a Zoom.
She agreed to let us share her Modern States Story only because she wants other DREAMers seeking a college education to benefit from our program, which she calls “life-changing, literally.”
Founded in 2017, Modern States is a philanthropy offering a free, seamless digital library of state-of-the-art college-level education classes for absolutely anyone to use. We also pay the College Board’s CLEP exam fees for students who take our classes, and those who earn passing CLEP scores can earn free credit at more than 2,900 colleges and universities.
As a TheDREAM.us scholar, Hope is also participating in our special program that pays her at least $150 and as much as $400 for every CLEP exam she passes after taking one of our courses. The money is nice, but it’s the hassle-free aspect of learning through Modern States that’s the difference, she said.
“Modern States allowed me to study a few times a week and then go take an exam without having to sit through professors who might not like you, and without having to deal with paperwork about federal aid and stuff like that,” Hope said in an interview. “This program has allowed me to focus on the education. Nothing more, nothing less.”
Gap Semester Focus
And focus she has. Hope took a gap semester after finishing high school in 2020 and turned to our courses to keep her education moving forward. She passed 10 CLEPs after taking our classes, earning $3,700 and saving what would be at least $12,000 in college tuition. She’s now in her first semester at a well-respected public university and having also taken other college classes while in high school, had enough credits to start as a junior.
“I have two parents who have bachelor’s degrees and they’ve always instilled in me that education really does come first,” she said. “That it’s imperative to be very aware of your surroundings, very aware of who you are, and that your status — social or wealth — doesn’t define you. Your education defines you. Your beliefs define you. Your morals define you.”
Among the many Modern States courses Hope completed are Spanish Language, French Language, Biology, American Government, English Literature and College Algebra.
“American Government was especially fun because I started doing that in November, during everything that was going on with the election,” she said.
Hope admitted, giggling, that she does indeed love to learn and has big hopes but that she also likes scrolling her social media feed, like anyone her age.
“With Generation Z, I think we’re all very competitive, driven, smart people,” Hope said. “Saying I just want to be an astronaut or a lawyer or doctor is such an understatement, because we have so many ideas and thoughts coming to us all the time. But If I had to narrow down (what I want to do), I’d say a medical doctor.”
At Modern States, our goal is to remove as many hurdles from the higher education journey as we can, allowing students of all ages — and with any background — to earn a college degree if they’re willing to work for it. We could not be prouder to have Hope among our learners and we appreciate her willingness to spread the word. So, we’ll let her have the last one.
“For the education world to have something like Modern States, it’s quite amazing, and it’s helping a lot of people realize that college is accessible,” Hope said. “Anyone can do it. It’s not about money. You can go to college.”