It’s Not All About the Money

By  Scott Carlson and Ned Laff

MAY 15, 2024

One in a series of articles about how today’s traditional-age college students experience the world — and how it affects their education.

Emelin Garcia-Nieto’s journey to medical school started in an unlikely place: a small, remote mountain village in the state of Guerrero, Mexico. In the 1990s, undocumented immigrants could pass through the U.S.-Mexican border relatively easily, and her aunt, who had already gone to the United States to work as a housecleaner, arrived back at the village one day to visit family. Seeing that baby Eme was sickly, and learning that her toddler brother had recently died, the aunt pleaded with her family to let her take the infant to America, where the young girl would have a better chance of survival and the hope of a good life.

Eme’s family wrote the aunt’s name as the mother on her birth certificate, and the woman found a way to smuggle the baby into California. The aunt and her husband, both undocumented, became Eme’s parents and moved their family to Columbia, S.C., for better opportunities, where Eme got a younger “brother” — a U.S. citizen by birth. Her brother could go to clinics that accepted Medicaid, while Eme and the rest of her family had to go to under-resourced free clinics. By the time she was 8, Eme was already translating between her parents and the clinic’s doctor and nurses — and later, regularly volunteering at the clinic, helping to translate for other patients.

She began to envision for herself a future in health care, which would allow her to bridge these gaps in language, culture, ethnicity, and nationality — a meaningful way to make sense of her past and change the lives of her family and those in her community.

Read on The Chronicle of Higher Education