Carlos Gonzalez grew up in a suburban town in the U.S. At public school, Gonzalez was president of the student council and head of the school's Model UN. But he hid a secret from all of his classmates, teachers and even his closest friends. Gonzalez was an undocumented immigrant, having arrived in the U.S. from the Dominican Republic at the age of 11 with his mother and sisters after the death of his father, and overstaying his visa.
Being an undocumented immigrant, Gonzalez said that applying for colleges became a tricky process. He says, "When you don't have a Social Security number to put on the application and are living in the U.S., it doesn't make sense [to the admissions officers]." As other students received their acceptance letters in the spring, Gonzalez was rejected from every college to which he applied. It was a devastating experience.
But Gonzalez didn't give up. He says he saw education as the way out of a life spent in the shadows, with little opportunity and with the constant fear of being found out and deported. Gonzalez enrolled in community college and applied to Amherst College in Massachusetts as a transfer student. Gonzalez says he spoke with an Amherst admissions officer and was encouraged to apply; the college is a need-blind institution, including with respect to those who had undocumented status. Gonzalez got in and soon tasted the college experience he had always longed for.
After his first year at Amherst, Gonzalez's life changed again – but this time, in a way that he could hardly believe. In 2012, President Obama signed the executive order known as the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA) allowing undocumented immigrants who arrived as children a reprieve from deportation. Gonzalez says that day he saw that "the world was open now" for him. Soon after DACA was signed, Gonzalez got his driver's license. He completed an internship in Congress. He studied abroad in Brazil and applied for a Gates Scholarship, which he won, allowing him to study for his Master's degree at Cambridge in the UK.
After graduation from Schwarzman College Carlos plans to return to the United States and work in public service.