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Go Do, Go Be, Go Fly

A DACA student’s story about the winding, daunting and hopeful journey to a better future

At a large high school in Texas sat Ana Carbajal Barahona. She was filling out college applications, like millions of students do each year, when she clicked “no” on the question asking if she was a U.S. citizen. The moments that followed haunted Ana for years, and it wasn’t until she found her Mavily that she could finally say a certain acronym out loud: DACA.

Shortly after Ana’s first birthday, she migrated with her family from Mexico City to Houston. As a first-generation American, Carbajal Barahona said she lived a carefree life, that is until she turned 15 years old and received information that would forever change the way she navigated the world. At 15, Carbajal Barahona went through the lengthy and daunting process to become a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival recipient, also known as DACA. It’s a national immigration policy meant to protect eligible undocumented immigrants from deportation who came to the United States as children. Because of her status, Carbajal Barahona’s path to college was a windy one.  

“When I was filling out college applications, I had all these questions because when you hit ‘no I’m not a citizen’, four other popups come up with a bunch of language no one really understands. My parents couldn’t answer them and my high school counselors embarrassed me in front of everyone,” said Carbajal Barahona. “It was a big road block. I thought, if I can’t answer these questions and fill out these applications, then I can’t go to college.”

It wasn’t only the process of applying to university that was a challenge, but also how she would pay for it. Being a DACA recipient, she couldn’t receive any federal funding or take out a loan. But with her family’s support and her dream of being the first in her family to go to college, she persevered.

“My mom always says, ‘Go do, go be, go fly.’ That’s kind of her motto for life. So it’s like go do what you want to do, go be who you want to be, go fly… like go be something for yourself.” 

And that’s what Carbajal Barahona did.

“I heard about CMU and thought the school sounded amazing! So I packed three suitcases, hopped on a plane and came here,” said Ana.

As of June 2022, there were nearly 600,000 DACA recipients in the U.S. and just greater than 13,000 in the state of Colorado. So even though Carbajal Barahona wasn’t alone, she felt like it for a while. Being a DACA student wasn’t something she felt she could share with others. And after the fear and embarrassment she endured from her high school counselors, she wasn’t sure how others would react.

“My first roommate, she was the first person I ever told that I was DACA. When I was a freshman, it was still such an emotionally charged thing that I just didn’t understand. I just cried every time I talked about it.”

Carbajal Barahona can talk about it now, and says she owes it to her fellow Mavericks for helping her find the strength to do, to be, to fly.

“It was a lot of just finding people I could trust and that I could lean on.”

Carbajal Barahona is in her fourth year at CMU with one year to go until graduation. She’s studying public accounting and is an Admissions Office ambassador helping others find their wings at CMU.


Written by Kelsey Coleman