Maria Roque-Rivera was 7 years old when she and her two younger siblings were loaded into the back of a vehicle with a woman they didn’t know and headed toward the border between the U.S. and Mexico.
When they got there, the woman told her, “I need you to pretend you’re asleep.” Maria had no idea she was about to enter a country she’d call home for the next 17 years, or that on that very day — Sept. 11, 2001 — that country was under attack.
“I had no clue what was going on,” she said.
The children were eventually reunited with their mother, who had crossed the Rio Grande, and their father, who was already in the country; they grew up in the Dayton area, where cousins were living.
Now 23, Maria says as a kid she was warned not to tell anyone where she came from because the information could get her parents deported.
College, she assumed, was out of the question, even as she accumulated an impressive high school resume that included sports, student council and the honor society.
DACA was the answer to her prayers.
After attending Clark State Community College and Sinclair Community College, she is now enrolled at the University of Cincinnati in a certificate program for animation.
“I want to be a comic book artist,” she said. “That’s been my dream and that’s been what I’m trying to work toward. Having DACA means the world to me.”