DACA Empowers Young Woman to Dream: Meet Maria

Catholic Charities Diocese of Charleston

Imagine the excitement of being a teenager and preparing to take important steps toward adulthood. First, it’s passing your driving test and receiving your license. Then it is graduating high school, applying for college and being accepted as a freshman.

“Imagine” was all that Maria Garcia Riopedre could do until 2012, when she learned of the federal government’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program through Catholic Charities of South Carolina. Riopedre had been brought into the U.S. without documentation when she was only 3 years old.

She recalled recently how her life through high school had felt uncertain. “I had goals that I wanted to do, but there was just no way I was going to be able to do them without moving away completely by myself at 16 to a different country that I didn’t know.”

With the help of the staff at Catholic Charities in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, Riopedre applied for and successfully gained DACA status. It began a profound change in her life. Uncertainty faded, her life got better and her dreams began to become realities. Now 22, Riopedre is a senior at the University of South Carolina. She is engaged to be married and is the co-owner of a business with her fiancé.

“I was able to attend university, which was my initial dream. I’m also currently co-owner of Catitude Cat Café in West Columbia, so I’ve also been able to do that. And I could finally get a driver’s license and move around,” she said.

Through her involvement with the Latino-founded Kappa Delta Chi Inc. sorority, Riopedre helped others enroll in the DACA program, bringing her experience full circle.

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