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From Mexico to US Citizen: A Story of Two TBP Staffers

For all of us, starting a new school year can be both an anxious and exciting time as we begin a new chapter, sometimes in a new place where we are meeting new and different people. During the pandemic, the last two school years have had their own unique challenges for all of us. But for two in our TBP family, this school year begins a special new chapter--as US Citizens.
Student Recruitment Manager Laura Rios and Enrollment Coordinator Yomaira Canales share this special distinction as both became US Citizens by taking their oath of office over the summer months. And as with everything during the pandemic, their naturalization ceremony was not exactly what they expected.
“We couldn’t have any family members during the ceremony due to COVID-19 protocols,” Rios said. “My husband had to wait in the car and my parents and sister surprised me outside with flowers and balloons.”
For both Rios and Canales, their paths to citizenship began through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program established in 2012 for those who came to the United States as children.
“The first thing I remember in Dallas was the big McDonald’s sign outside the Dallas Greyhound station,” Canales said. “I came to DFW just a few weeks before fourth grade started. I was in ESL for one year, but by the fifth grade, I was in all English classes. I learned English the ‘hard way.’”
Laura Rios
Student Recruitment Manager
Yomaira Canales
Enrollment Coordinator

Coming to a new country is difficult for anyone, but not having the support of your parents made it especially challenging for Canales.
“My parents were not expecting me, so they gave me to my mom’s sister to raise,” Canales said. “I lived with my mom’s sister, and, when I came to US at end of 1995, I lived with various family members. My aunt came to the US to support family back home. Because by biological parents were not involved in my life, my mother’s sisters stepped in to support me.”
For Rios, language was also not the only challenge.
“You go through the whole experience learning a new language with a few kids making fun of you,” Rios said. “Then, when you become an adult and must work, there are hurdles. When I went to college, I had to pay international tuition rates. After graduating with my bachelor’s degree, until DACA, I could not pursue my career because of my legal status.”
Meeting their husbands and starting families of their own led to both women juggling a complicated immigration process with the demands of work and home life.
“In January 2016, I had my interview with Irving Immigration officials,” Canales said. “It was the day after my son’s birthday. When I got home, I received a text that my case was approved, and my green card was in production.”
The process to becoming a US Citizen requires lots of waiting in addition to interviews, tests and money.
“I put in my application in May 2020 during ‘lockdown’,” Canales said. “At the end of February 2021, I got the letter that I needed to do my test/interview in March. I studied questions and had family quiz me, including Kara Van Dine, my supervisor.”
Their pathway to citizenship gives both a unique insight that they apply in their roles at TBP.
“For any TBP students that may be going through something similar, I would encourage them to continue with their education, learning the second language and never, never give up,” Rios said. “Just because you are not proficient in the English language now doesn’t mean you’re not capable and nothing can stop you from pursuing a career. Coming from another country is not something that has to hold you back from accomplishing your dreams”
Getting the opportunity to speak with many incoming TBP families during the enrollment process allows Canales to connect her life experience with those of TBP parents and students.
“I feel a connection with many of our kids and families going through what I did,” Canales said. “I wish I had the same kind of support from my parents that some of our kids do from their own families. It feels good to know that these kids have the support of their parents, siblings and teachers, even.”
For TBP students facing similar circumstances, Canales and Rios draws upon their own experience to encourage them.
“I know some people who have had setbacks due to immigration, and I encourage them to not give up!” Rios said.
“I consider myself the poster child for the expression ‘Dreams do come true’,” Canales said. “And 25 years later, I’m still here living the American Dream!”
TBP is a better organization because of the diverse experiences of our staff, and we are lucky to work with such dedicated, talented, and driven individuals like Yomaira Canales and Laura Rios. We are very proud of their accomplishments here at TBP and we want to congratulate them on becoming US citizens. We look forward to continuing to encourage and support the wonderful things that they do for TBP families.