Undocumented student says new law improves her college chances

YAKIMA, Wash. -- A new law is now on the books that promises real hope for a better education. The Real Hope Act means just that to hundreds of local students who might have written off their college dreams. It makes state-funded college aid available to students brought to this country illegally.

KIMA spoke with one high school senior about how it will make a difference.

Samantha Gilvargas is a senior at Eisenhower High School, an honors student and an athlete. Like so many of her classmates, she dreams of going to college.

"It means everything to me," she says.

But Samantha is undocumented. She was born in Mexico City. Her parents brought her to the U.S. illegally when she was four. Her dad worked in the orchards. Her mom was a hotel maid.

Their dreams of a better life for their daughter included college. But, due to her citizenship status, she was ineligible for state financial aid.

"I had to prepare myself for the chance that I wouldn't be able to go to the college of my dreams."

But, now Samantha has hope. The Real Hope Act allows her to undocumented students to seek publicly-funded college aid.

The Latino Educational Achievement Project says Samantha is one of several hundred students in a similar situation in Eastern Washington alone.

"Other students see me as a college student. They expect me to, 'Oh, if you get into the University of Washington, obviously you're going to go.' But, they don't understand that the financial hardship is incredible."

ESD 105 Superintendent Steve Myers says the state legislature has done right by these kids.

"To not give children the chance to better themselves, when they had no choice where they were born and when their families really provide the work of billions and billions of dollars in our agricultural business, we've always thought it was a moral imperative."

Samantha was already accepted to Gonzaga. She says the act has improved her chances of actually going.

"It's another door that's open. It gives me more of an opportunity to get money that I couldn't get anywhere else to go to college."

And, a chance to live her dream.

Undocumented students eligible for financial aid must meet the same low-income guidelines as other students.