The National Immigrant Youth Alliance is at the helm of this year's National Coming Out of the shadows week of action.  With events scheduled across the country, the NIYA has developed a toolkit and coming out guide for undocumented, unafraid and unapologetic community members and activists at all levels of involvement that includes: How to tell Your Story; Taking Action Online; and Why Come Out?

Continuing our I Am storytelling series, Dulce Guerrero shares her story with Drop the I-Word. Guerrero is with Dream Activist Georgia and took part in the Georgia 6 action in Atlanta last June. Guerrero would like to attend college and major in social work in order to continue helping her community. She talks to us about the importance of mental health and the NIYA's new UndocuHealth initiative.

We are very grateful to the NIYA and the storytellers sharing with us all week. Stay tuned!

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I am a Strong and Beautiful Undocumented Leader; I am not "Illegal."

By Dulce Guerrero

My Name is Dulce Guerrero and I am an undocumented student from Georgia.  I came to the United States at the age of 2 along with my parents who were in search of a better life for my brother and I. I am now 19 years old and I have been living in Mableton, Georgia ever since. 

Growing up I always knew in the back of my head that I was undocumented but I never truly understood what it meant.  It wasn't until my sophomore year in high school that I started to realize how different I was.  I remember seeing all my friends get their driver's permits and their work permits; these were things I was not allowed to obtain because of my status.  I started seeing my friends apply for colleges and scholarships that were not available for me. After I began to realize this situation, I remember having feelings of anxiety and stress. Everything that I had worked so hard for was quickly tumbling before my eyes, and I felt hopeless. I did not know how to handle my situation, nor did I have anyone to turn to.  There were many moments where I began to feel completely alone. I felt as if no one understood my situation, or what I was going through.  Speaking about one's own immigration status was something that we were taught at a young age that we must never do.  So no one did. 

I will never forget my sophomore year in high school. While most kids would stay after school to practice for the school band or join a sport, I would stay after school and think about my life. I remember that I was not part of any sport or extra-curricular activity but I would stay after school sometimes 2 or 3 times a week all by myself. There is a staircase in the back of the school building that has a huge window with a beautiful view towards the school patio. I enjoyed sitting at this staircase alone just to think about my future. Questions always ran through my head, such as: What is my life going to be like? Will I ever go to college? Will I ever be able to obtain a degree? If so, how could I possibly use it?  Not being able to find the answer to these questions only frustrated me more.

Learning about one's undocumented status at such a young age can be a heart breaking moment. Feeling alone in this situation only makes it worse.  There have been many students who have decided it was better to take their own lives before living in this reality. This is one of the many reasons why I decide to share my story every chance I get.  Being able to reach out to someone and find that much needed support is a huge part of being mentally healthy in this movement. If we are going to help others we must first help ourselves. UndocuHealth is a project of NIYA and was created in honor of all those undocumented youth who we have lost throughout the years due to depression and mental health issues.  An issue that is not spoken about openly, but that is very real. UndocuHealth seeks to support students who might be facing these types of challenges.  Students can find more resources and reach out to other undocumented youth who are going through the same situation at undocuhealth.org. UndocuHealth also has a hotline in the works for the near future where undocumented students can call at any time and talk to other undocumented students about what they are feeling.  We realize that no matter what state we live in, we are in this together because no one fights alone!

My name is Dulce, I am a Strong and Beautiful Undocumented Leader; I am Not "illegal."