My name is Maria Cepeda and I came to the United States as a child, when I was 9 or 10-years-old, with my family from the Dominican Republic. Most of my family was here already. My father brought my mother, my two brothers, one sister, and me, and moved us all into a small one-bedroom apartment that had been my uncle’s.
The United States has given me so much: I grew up here, my life is here, my children’s lives are here. The country gave me my education, which was very important to my parents. I have two teen-aged boys and I am passing along to them how important an education is for them to get out of the herd. I tell them to focus—focus on education.
I’m 34-years-old and I’m still in college. I want to finish my education and have my own business. I have always worked in retail, but my dream is to start a family center. I love working with kids. There is a lot of stuff for little kids to do, but when they get older it gets harder for them to find activities. I always say that if there’s an activity for them, they won’t be in the street. So I would like to create my own center for teenagers afterschool and on the weekends.
I want to become a citizen because a lot of doors open, especially the right to vote. I want to have that power. Being a citizen gives you better job opportunities. People see you differently when you are a citizen, it shows that we’re here to do something; that we’re here to grow, as a community and a country. As a citizen, I want to give this country hard work.