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CONTACT: Maury Sullivan, KLRU, (512) 475-9087, Kristin Steimel, Christian-Hubble Media, (512) 370-3474

IVY LEAGUE GRADUATE RETURNS HOME

TO COLONIA AS TEACHER

Austin, Texas – Growing up in a small house with no indoor plumbing along with five sisters and two brothers, Blanca Rojas dreamed of a better life. After finishing high school, she received a scholarship to attend an Ivy League university. Blanca’s story of life in the colonias, neighborhoods near the U.S.-Mexico border where there is often no electricity or running water, is one of many in the film The Forgotten Americans.

PBS will air The Forgotten Americans nationally Friday, December 14, 2000 (check local listings). This documentary, by acclaimed filmmaker Hector Galán, examines the issues of daily life in these communities that have Third World conditions.

"I remember a lot of people saying, … you can’t go to college," Rojas said. "I mean, come on. You don’t have any money… you come from this area [where] people rarely go to college, rarely get to high school because a lot of people drop out at the eighth grade … But I always knew that I wanted to go to college."

With the help of her teachers, counselors, and parents, Rojas worked hard in school to earn a scholarship to Brown University in Rhode Island. Setting a milestone, she was the first in her family to graduate from college.

"My desire to get a good education came from my parents," Rojas said. "They taught me the valuable lesson that once you earn an education, it is something that can never be taken away."

Upon graduation from Brown, Rojas moved back home to become a teacher. She lives one block from her childhood home in the Monte Alto colonia. Rojas said she believes her success story has been encouraging to her students at La Villa High School where she teaches English. She plans on applying to medical school next year.

"When I was a high school student, teachers encouraged and inspired me not only to graduate from high school, but to graduate from university as well," Rojas said. "I want students to know that it is possible for them to make it to university, too, that money does not have to be a barrier."

Rojas said she believes that the living conditions in colonias are slowly improving. Like many other colonia residents, she hopes The Forgotten Americans will open the eyes of people who do not understand that the colonias are a very real problem in America.

 

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