Richland has students from all over the world. First-year student Gloria Rinconi is originally from Guerrero, Mexico. She came to the United States with her parents when she was just 1 year old. Her family felt that Mexico offered them no future.
Rinconi's parents were business owners but with violence threatening the locals and underemployment not getting any better, her parents decided to leave Mexico. Rinconi and her parents first stop in the U.S. was Dallas and later, the small town of Statesville, N.C.
Rinconi graduated from high school with a medical assistant certification and was granted residency through President Barack Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy. From there, it has been, “the sky is the limit.”
She has participated in national beauty pageants, finishing as a national achievement finalist andworks at Texas Health Presbyterian hospital in Dallas as a medical assistant. She has also been interviewed by media heavyweights, including The New York Times and CNN, that brought herstory to light following the U.S. national election and changing political climate that has created an uncertain period for some.
Under Obama, DACA program opened the door to myriad educational opportunities for Rinconi. She was inspired to work in the medical field following her mother’s illness. Her mother was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer when Rinconi was a freshman. Doctors would not treat her because of her legal status.
“How can a doctor who swears on the Bible and says ‘doctor do no harm’ turn down terminally-ill people?” Rinconi said.
Having lived in small towns like Statesville and for a brief time in Tyler, Texas, she was reluctant of to speak with The New York Times and CNN. She was afraid of the reaction among the people in town. Rinconi said, “The Hispanic population is scared to speak. It's a small town. It's this thing of 'who's your boss and what does your boss believe.' Typically it's Republican and something [a perception] Tyler hasn't gotten rid of." Rinconi credits a DACA scholarship for allowing her to attend Richland and having the benefit of paying Texas-resident rates instead of paying international fees.
Rinconi wants to pursue the top prize in beauty pageants. She won’t compete this year, but plans to return to competition in the near future. She adds, “Y’all will have to be on the lookout for that.”
Rinconi met numerous of DACA students around Dallas, particularly at El Centro Community College, the University of Texas at Dallas and the University of North Texas. She won’t be able to attend her dream school, Baylor University, because of her DACA status. As such, she won’t be able to receive government grants. After her studies at Richland, Rinconi will attend the University of Texas at Dallas where she received grants that will pay for her tuition.
When Obama signed the executive order for DACA, Rinconi worked at a local fast food restaurant. As she and her friends watchedhim sign the bill, she said she had an enthusiastic feeling that she didn’t expect.
“I thought that that was the world to me right there,” she said.
Rinconi credits Obama with the action he took for young immigrants. She also gives tremendous credit to Richland.
“Richland has given me a great education,” she said. “I have great professors. They seem like they try to go the extra mile and get to know and teach you. I would say it has given me a positive incentive to go to college.”