Carol Callanan-Uhl and Dan Schmidt

Recorded April 13, 2011 Archived April 13, 2011 39:33 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: MBX007970


School Counselor Dan Schmidt, 55, interviews one of his students Carolina, 18, about what motivates her, the challenges she faces as an undocumented student, and her hopes for going to college.

Subject Log / Time Code

C is a straight A student and moved to the US from Mexico when she was in the 5th grade. She works hard to give back to her family some of the richness they have given her and because challenging herself makes her feel proud.
“I like learning new things,” says C. She tries to ignore the negative experiences she has like when other girls say mean things, “I don’t want those things in my life.”
C hopes to go to college to make her parents proud and to help set an example. She hopes to study to be an art teacher or a nurse.
C reflects that if she doesn’t go to college, she’ll probably end up cleaning hotels with her mother.
C & DS discuss the challenges undocumented students face apply to college and for scholarships.
C describes what her life was like in Mexico before she came to the US.
C remembers coming to the US and walking through the desert with her family. They had to be quiet and cautious.
DS admires C for how hard she works and for all her accomplishments. She could have chosen to give up, but she has chosen to excel instead.


  • Carol Callanan-Uhl
  • Dan Schmidt

Venue / Recording Kit


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00:05 My name is Dan Schmidt. I am 55 years old.

00:09 The date is April 13th, 2011 and we are in Wilmington, North Carolina.

00:15 My relationship with karolina is I am her high school guidance counselor.

00:20 My name is karolina and I'm 18 years old today is April 13th, 2011 and we're at Wilmington, North Carolina. And mr. Smith is my counselor.

00:32 Will karolina I think as you know, I'm very impressed with you as a student. You have straight A's in high school. I know you moved here from Mexico in the fifth grade not yet. You didn't know any English when you came to America.

00:50 And I'm just always impressed that you just done so well in school and I guess I just want to know what motivates you to do. So well.

00:58 I think the thing that motivates me the most is my family because I see how my dad and my mom have worked, you know so much to get me my sisters and my brother to where we at now and I think I want to you know have good grades and get to go to college.

01:22 So I can give back to them some of the richness that they have given me.

01:29 And also what motivates me is that I've always like to challenge myself, you know, go a step farther and just makes me feel proud of myself.

01:42 Hey, you mention challenging yourself. I know that you're taking some college-level advanced placement classes this year and you took like one last year and I have been taking honors classes all through high school. You want to talk a little bit about that like what that experience has been like for me has been weird because when I going to honors class or an AP, you know, it's filled with American people. You know, why black people is usually not Hispanic people there. So I feel I feel really outstanding. I guess. I feel like I want to learn more about the subject that I have.

02:31 Leigh Connors is advanced classes. So for me, it's really good to learn like I love to learn English and get mad and I feel like taking advanced classes.

02:48 I learn more.

02:52 Are you kind of mentioned that you're in the minority and I get to school that week that I work at in that lets you go to here in Wilmington. It's I think about 50% Y8 to maybe 47% by I can really like maybe 5% Hispanic. So what is that like to be in that small and minority? I mean is that that difficult that you're so few Hispanic students as I've been hanging? I don't know. What is that so much but signs, you know, we are a minority here in the United States and is sometimes really hard for me to Oregon my family to you know,

03:33 Get the opportunities we deserve because my family they work really hard for everything all my my mom my sister's they work really hard to sustain their family. They're strong woman. And you know, I think all the Hispanic families do that. There are families really wear a family-based community Hispanic community and what we do is we work and we help each other, you know, but it sometimes really hard because you know, we get cleaning jobs construction jobs, we get jobs that

04:17 Physical, you know physical work and we get not as much money as we would like to but we still keep going, you know, so being a minority is nice, but it has her moments.

04:35 I'm going to talk ask you more about your your mom and your sisters little bit later.

04:41 What do you like best about high school?

04:45 I think I'm

04:47 I like I like learning new things. I have learned a lot of things to HighSchool. What I've learned about how people act, you know people my age and I have also made a lot of wonderful people including yourself that have helped me to get through high school because I don't think I think you're fighting Meadows people. I wouldn't be able to continue going to school. You know, I think with all those people that give me negative comments or negative moments, you know memories. I think if I didn't have those people holding me together, I think I will be you know,

05:32 I know you told me that sometimes you have some negative experiences with students. Where do you think that comes from? Why do you think that's happens? I think it's because you know, they see I don't know. I'm not very social with people just because I don't I don't think that I'm better than people but sometimes those people are really negative about life and I don't want those things in my life because you know, I have a goal and I think if I start talking to people that give me negative things that will hold me back and I won't be able to reach my goal like I want to but I think people just, you know, try to break you down all the time. They tried to hold you back just because they are not happy with their own life.

06:26 You know, they try they want to see you fail. That's why I ignore them most of the time.

06:38 Well, I let off girls have threatened me and they always try to pick fights with me. And so, you know, call me names and

06:52 There was this one time where this girl bro a letter to to me and just started, you know, she wrote mean things about me and talking about my boyfriend was cheating on me and getting that wood in my head and they think is also you know that contributes to the problem that I go out with an African-American Hispanic boy and I think sometimes you know African Americans do not like interracial relationships. So I think that's also adds to the problem.

07:32 That's why people bother me so much. What did it what did you feel when you got that?

07:39 Actually laughed because I don't let things like that, you know hurt me because I always like to think that girls or those people are just jealous of me. So I always just laugh and you know instead of letting that bother me.

08:00 Let's talk a little bit about the future and college and what are your hopes and dreams for the future go to college and I just would like to do that because you know, I would like to make my parents proud and just my sisters and my brother I would like to make them proud and I will also like to set an example for minorities in the US that you know struggle to.

08:34 Get a better life everyday and

08:38 I would like to.

08:41 Studying to be an art teacher maybe or have a nursing career. I don't know yet, but I think when I get there, I will decide the best career for me.

08:53 And also would like to go to college because you know, I want to be able to provide my kids without opportunity as well. Because if you go to college you always are more money than if you have a college education, so I think though

09:09 That will help me be able to help my kids as well to go to college and you know, I want to own my own house. That's always been my dream to have my own house in New Mexico and maybe one here, too.

09:25 What will you do? If you for some reason you cannot go to college? What would you end up? What do you think you'll end up doing?

09:32 That's a really hard question because

09:36 I mean, I don't want to admit it, but I think if I don't end up going to college, I'll probably do, you know end up cleaning probably Laz the job that you always get when you don't have any other.

09:53 Skate or work at a restaurant or something like that?

09:58 I know you've been accepted to three colleges here in North Carolina and to have offered you partial scholarships. How did you how did that make you feel winning? NASCAR so scholarships and getting accepted it made me really happy but you know now so that happened because you have helped me a lot through my last year in high school. And I think if it wasn't for you, I wouldn't have gotten anything cuz I didn't I didn't know anything about the college application process before you came to me and try to help me with it. But I I feel really happy and when I told my mom she was really proud.

10:39 Yeah, it was.

10:41 I knew about karolina to her sophomore junior year and but she wasn't my student and about his kind of Sorrow. I see your name on the list of kids like for honor roll and being getting straight A's and being ranked. So well inside this was who is this Carolina Carolina Carolina and

11:02 So I wanted to meet her and talk to her and stuff. And then the fact is that you know, you're you're undocumented and so it's hard for an undocumented kid to get in college and get money for college. And so good first. I was like about when I find out you're a document that kind of thought that's not much opportunity there cuz they make there so many obstacles for undocumented people and then I just this fall I just said heck let's go for let's try it, you know, and I remember promise me that there's nothing I can't promise you anything. I can't guarantee that you're going to get in or get money, but I just thought what the heck let's try some of that we have and I've enjoyed our time together and you know, we're still still working through it, but it's getting to look like maybe it's more possible.

11:44 So what so what what are the challenges but undocumented students have applying for college will a few things that mr. Smith has told me is that most of the time they considered an adult medicine out of state. So that tuition is higher my tire and also is really hard to get scholarships, you know, a financial help from the government because I'm undocumented and I don't have that opportunity to apply and also just you know getting into public colleges is also really hard.

12:30 Yes, it's it's really they're basically not eligible for federal and state grants and loans. And so that cuts out a lot of money right there. So if they pretty much relying on private scholarships from colleges or other 8 a cup in her or agencies.

12:50 But so yeah, there's definitely some obstacles there and

12:55 The estate schools are going to charge and community colleges are playing on charge three times as much to a to a student Tuesday. I was undocumented. They treat him as their ears Carolina been here since fifth grade 8 years and they're calling her a non North Carolina resident. You know, I feel like that.

13:15 Punishing students for the actions of their parents not that your parents I said anything wrong, but it wasn't your idea that comes in at States. I'm sure it was probably your parents and you know side of the thing that gets me is

13:31 Here she is in the top 10% of her class. She's doing a lot better than a lot of American kids because of a workout at attitude and ethic and yet Robert to the doors closed for your relationship very far. So that's what frustrates me about this.

13:47 And so did you Carolina did you what did you think about going to college or the opportunity to go to college before you and Mister Schmidt?

13:59 Start talking about it this fall.

14:02 I don't have much idea of what the college application process was to be honest and actually was kind of scared when because when you're a senior, you know, you start going to the library and going to the computer lab to apply and I was like, I don't know nothing about so how what am I going to do? So I was like, I may not even be able to apply just because I'm going to come in it and I've heard that and look how many people you know can go to college or have a really hard time.

14:41 So I didn't really know anything about it. You know, I didn't I didn't know I had to take the SAT or the or the other test. I didn't know anyting card or is it hard? Can you talk about it with your friends that like your friends are applying for college and can you tell them I'm undocumented and it's harder for me to do it.

15:04 I think it's hard for me to admit that. I'm in the commitment to open the YouTube people like a lot of

15:15 Girls have asked me where am I going to college and all that and my teacher has me have you apply for financial aid to of the state and I always seem like really reserved about I don't like to talk much about it. Just because you know, I may not go so I don't want to tell her she's got in some of the nice goodnight scholarship from a couple private schools in North Carolina and Louis still have money that we need to raise and that's kind of what we're working on having reply to some scholarships and fellowships. So those we don't bother applying for it, but we're getting to trying to get some reason trying to gather some money still. So make it possible. We're not there yet, but we're still still working on.

16:00 So, what did you feel like when when Mister Schmidt came to you and said let's go for it. Let's I can't make promises but

16:10 What did you feel? I feel so excited. I guess that you know, somebody cared enough to come to me and actually give me a chance to go to college now. But lately I have I've lost a little enthusiasm because because there is so much money that I still need to go and but you know, I mean, I don't lose Nothing by trying so I'm definitely going to try to collect my money and do my best to be able to go.

16:48 And then I so when you receive word from college that you get in what act like you get a what happens to us. It's been a while since I got accepted to college tell me about

17:01 Envelope or what happened yet? Yes, I when I got some letters in the mail. You know, I always check constantly and when I get a letter from when I was expecting the letter from the college to hear back if I was accepted or not. I always hoping that you know, I was going to decide it but at the same time I wasn't too excited because I know it's hard to get into colleges and I wasn't when I got a envelope that said I wasn't accepted I wasn't even disappointed because I kind of already expected some of it but you know, when I got the envelope that said I was accepted I really got really excited and you know, I shared it with my family and with my dad.

17:49 Quiz in Mexico, and you know, he always tells me that he's really proud. So just because I made it this far.

17:58 So is really

18:00 Some really exciting experience facing the first thing that I did was I don't know. I just had a moment for myself and almost cried, I guess from the excitement. I was really proud and hugs a letter.

18:23 Shelley Hennig

18:25 Well, let some what's going to talk more about college. Why don't we love tacos bit more about you and your family. Okay. I know you're you're very close to your mom while she tell us a bit about your mom.

18:41 She's

18:42 Thomas a really strong woman in I think she's a woman that has to know the most well not the only other woman but the person that has the most influence in my life just because when I you know, she's always you know, I'm mother is always a person that is there for you no matter if you are a boy or a girl they're always there and they they feed you and your your dad as well. But my mom says I'm a girl. I'm closing to my mom and you know, my bag came here before I was before I came here, see how come a few times and he went back and came back and went back to cheer.

19:23 So I kind of stay with my mom in Mexico and she took care of me and then we came here and they recently got separated and I stayed with her, you know, she's always been there for me and even though you know, we fight sometimes because you know that's not available. But at the end, you know, she always comes and she's the one who always tries to

19:50 Reconcile with me, you know, and I seen that says does the purest love I just love my mom and she go shopping together on herself and I told her mind sometimes and sometimes we just laughed together and I've worked with her in

20:12 Cleaning I worked with her before. She was the person who got me my first job in cleaning at a hotel.

20:20 And I got the job immediately because they really liked her mom's really nice. And I think I have a lot to learn from her because when people make her mad or people, you know treat hair on fairly. She's always nice to it, you know, she never gets really angry. So I think I have to learn from her her patients that she has and just that she made it this far, you know, she's in the US and I'm here for her to you know, what she eaten yet. She need to finish Elementary School and her parents were really poor so she couldn't get an education.

21:03 That's why she works in cleaning now, but still she made it here.

21:11 Why did your family move to the United States?

21:16 I think my dad heard it at first from our neighbor next door neighbor and that there was a lot of jobs here because you know a Mexico things are really hard.

21:32 He he used my dad used to work. He started working when he was really young and the fields in Mexico, you know, because rice, I think he told me he told me the story of his life and he had to work because his dad died and he was responsible for his family. He took care of them and then my dad got married to my mom really young and they started they bought they moved to Veracruz where I was born from a really

22:07 Rural area to a more urban area where they live now and they started building or house in Veracruz and they were really hard but he's just, you know, they have for kids including me myself and I guess it was really hard for them to race us and pay for it acacian because of Mexico you have to pay for everything you have to pay for kindergarten elementary school walk to school take the bus to school. I mean, they don't have free services like they do here. They don't have lunch. You have to buy your own food. So I think you know it requires more than my bad aren't at that time so he came here.

22:57 With or neighbor and each year. He went back to Mexico and to see me and my my mom and my brothers my sister.

23:08 And then he came back. So he was like honest and he came here for a year collected saved up some money to get back and he built their house so he bought he went back but some materials finished a part of her house and then came over here to get some more money.

23:31 So and then later he decided you know that we should come here to join him. And that's how we got here.

23:41 Do you remember?

23:42 The journey actually when I got here, I wrote it down so I wouldn't forget but I mean haven't forgotten. I mean I was saying you're old but he was like to me was like an adventure, you know, because when you're a kid, it's just that mentality that you have.

24:03 But yes, it was my mom my two sisters. One of my sister was pregnant. My cousin. My sister's kid her a little boy and my cousin's girl and me and we had to take an airplane from Veracruz to Hermosillo.

24:26 And when I was like is my first time in an airplane, so I was excited. You know, I saw the mountains in Mexico City from the airplane that was really excited. And then when we got there it was when we got off the airplane. He was really hot. The air was really hot. So I was I don't know it was like an adventure and then

24:52 When we got there, we had to stay in a hotel for a few days. But then the person that was supposed to go pick us up to longer than he was supposed to so we stay in Hermosillo for longer and then when we went to another house from there and we stay there for one night. Then the next day we went to the house of the person. I was going to take us across the border and when we got there, we walked, you know when he was is night and we started walking.

25:29 And then

25:32 We have we had to leave some of her stuff some of her stuff there and with that lady.

25:39 Because when you cross the border there is like Bandits that assault you and they take yourself from you if you have money or jewelry or anything, they they take it from you. And so and sometimes is even the same person that takes you across the border who does that to you? So we had to leave some of the stuff but we started walking and there was a lot of heels.

26:07 So my mom actually fell and hurt her knee but you know, and that's another thing that I admire about my mom. She was hurt and she we could go and you know, because we had so and we got lost from the person that was guiding us through the desert.

26:27 We got lost in he's kind of scary because we were running out of water and they were big Cows and Bulls that they were going to attack us and stuff and we had two little kids as well. You know, they didn't have water so we were kind of scared but then we the guy found us and when we got across there was a truck waiting from us for us and we got in truck in the back and it was really crowded and then they took us to a house and from there. We took another car and a truck that took us to Phoenix, Arizona and there we stayed at an apartment.

27:15 It was really nice. Actually, they they have a lot of good food and we're able to take a shower for the first time in the days. My my niece is one and just eating eating really good food and it was really nice to her flowers. You know, where where in the u.s. Are already. So from there, we took a road trip with the person that Bart has to, North Carolina.

27:47 Anna you know the whole way we were in the car all my whole family and me were in the in one car. So I remembered you stopping in the gas stations and leaving now when I go to the station and smell the gasoline it reminds me of when I was coming over here.

28:08 And you know when I got here he was so weird to me cuz I never seen the place and I actually arrived at the Kmart on.

28:20 In college I arrived there. I remember that my dad was there waiting for us and he struck his Ben had a Ben and he was there for us and winning in Kmart and buy some clothes.

28:41 Could you see your dad before you were able to get out of the car? And no I couldn't and I was wondering where he was but then I saw him and he was like OluKai have a car because waiting on a car in Mexico that we had a car. So I got it in the car and you know, he was like he had a teddy bear for me. He bought me this. He was a cheap. He was at a little bag and Musa I still have it. Is it nice and I was happy to see my dad.

29:13 And then I just I'm curious going back to when you were walking in the desert.

29:20 Were you talking to your family members or you're walking at night? What did it sound? Like we're actually really quiet and you nowhere because you know, there's migration cars that you know are watching and looking for people so we are really cautious. We even speak a lot we of course we spoke but not a lot.

29:43 Sportsman have anything to speak about in that moment. So I actually remember that when we had lost we were we were just kind of scared that we weren't going to find the people so you're actually trying to

29:58 Get the migration people to see us because we don't want to die. So we weren't trying to you know, cuz I think we saw a car the distance and we're trying to make signals to them and you know to come get us, you know, because I mean we rather go back to Mexico then I need this hurts. So we're actually trying to get them to see us but it was a good thing that you know instead of that the guy found us so you could come here.

30:34 Like are you thinking of anything or is it kind of you just have to put your head down and put One Foot In Front Of Another. I think it's been 8 years. So I kind of don't remember exactly what I was thinking but

30:53 Like I said, there were a lot of heels and Brookie.

30:59 Like big rocks that and you have to be real careful where you stepped because you know what happened to my mom. She fell she slipped. So I think what I was thinking is, you know, stay with your family don't get lost keep walking do what the person that was guiding us told us to do because that's the only way we're going to get through

31:24 Change of subject little bit. I guess I'm meeting you too and getting to know you I've learned that you've being undocumented you really have some obstacles in life, and I know two of those and you can let you talk about that.

31:38 One being driving. You can't really get a driver's license and no bank and then to getting a job is really difficult, you know, and that's just basic stuff and talk about well, I recently got a car. I'll see you in everything them and you know, I was trying to I got the car just because I wanted to be able to transport myself to work today, you know save up some more money, but unfortunately, you know, I wasn't able to get a license know that I needed it because you know, most of the Spanish people here drive illegally.

32:15 But I was trying to get my car getting insurance through another person that was going to do that for me.

32:24 But it wasn't possible. So now I'm feeling the car and it is has been really hard for me to also get a job because I don't have a Social Security and you me back for what shops buttom.

32:39 I think that's interesting that and there's laws that we have that don't allow undocumented people have driver's license. And so people drive illegally. So we have people driving illegally and then same thing with job. They can't get a job. So they have fake Social Security numbers and I'm in there. It's just an almost forces people to break them talking about going to college about the DREAM Act that wasn't passed and I think you know the speed some students are some from the Hispanic or other countries that come here legally not all Hispanic but others they try to make a good life. You know, they try to do something with their life provide maybe a service here and be doctors or lawyers.

33:29 And they try to do that but it's impossible for us to do if we don't they don't give us a chance and I think you know, it's kind of unfair because instead of the students instead of going to be in the streets being criminals and you know doing Best Buy things joining gangs instead of doing that they want to do something but they can't just because the law one allows to do it, you know, and yes, we have to get fake Social Security numbers.

33:59 We have to get fake licenses, you know to be able to actually work and it's not like we get good jobs. We get jobs that are really hard and pay really low, but we still make

34:16 What are you most proud of in your life?

34:21 I think I'm most proud of.

34:24 Just actually be here, you know being with my family mostly because I think if it wasn't for my family to they ask for me a lot through, you know my entire life, but I think we're really are united family and I'm proud of I'm proud of my my two sisters on my brother my mom and my dad I'm proud of them because they have made it this far and they have work so hard and you know, I see people that they're born with riches.

34:59 And I'm not saying they don't work, but you know, my family has work so hard and I'm really proud about that. And that's why I am a hard worker and I want to do better. I'm really proud and I'm also proud that I got to switch to college and you know, I've actually have some hope of

35:21 Getting an education

35:25 Is there something you want to ask me?

35:29 Yes, I do. What motivates you too, you know, I don't know you have helped me so much through this process that you know, and you're also trying to help other people not only me but other Hispanic people that don't have the chance to go to college. What motivates you to do this.

35:53 Well, like I said, I think I just noticed I just really impressed by you that your academic record is so good. And you know, you haven't had it easy. You work so hard. I don't do that all the time and I see and I see quite a few American students who have things very nice at home, but are lazy at school and I see you who you know your life. Isn't that easy yum. I know you live with live in a trailer park. Can you live with your sister and her family and somehow there's not a lot of space and you take the school bus everyday. I mean a lot of kids drive their cars at school, you know, and you get the you have to do this and so that just impresses me cuz I think it would be easier and your situation to give up or two to say well I'm going to be a c student and just get behind graduate, you know until the fact that you Excel and I admire you for that and I'm just I'll just be impressed with you and I think you deserve an opportunity and that's why I'm just trying to help with that opportunity.

36:53 And much as I can cuz I think you should go. I think you should go to college and I don't want to work. I just hope that we can make it happen on student that may have a chance to go farther. A lot of people a lot of students Hispanic students mostly give up on school they talk about in.

37:19 I think it's because they don't have motivation, you know, they don't have hope because they see that.

37:26 They don't have a chance.

37:28 In in the US and the law is not going to allow them to

37:33 To study what they want to do their working here is kind of hard for me to argue with that cuz I hate you I said, well, you know, it's good to have a high school diploma or some jobs that might have a need a high-school diploma for but you know it but I understood him as a young man. He wants to make some money. You know, that's hard as a counselor to say. Yeah, I understand you went right by school, but I couldn't really argue with them that much any any sort of made a good point construction like most men do Hispanic men or you don't need a high-school diploma to clean, you know, or working my balls. You might need it to work in my dog's butt.

38:24 So I've been asking questions is raining else. You think that we should discuss. Is there any other topic you want to bring up?

38:30 No, I don't.

38:33 Have helped me through the processing of getting into college, you know, that teacher that have supported me. You know, I miss Jones, you know, Miss Emily, even the people that just you know Road the recommendation letters for my my college applications for my senior project. You know, I want to thank them and think she's my family over and just you know, the people that support me everything.

39:06 Very good

39:08 I think we're probably.

39:11 Okay. Okay. Thank you. Mr. Smith for being here and you know supporting me and giving me this.

39:20 Good questions. Thank you Carol, and it's always a pleasure to work with you and will keep will keep fighting the battle and hopefully he'll be in colleges.