Faces of Florida: Monica Herrera

Screen Shot 2013-07-09 at 1.43.45 PMPaying it back AND paying it forward, that’s how I look at it. I get my sense of service to others from my father who, even though we don’t have a lot, considers himself fortunate and gives what he can to others less fortunate. He tells me – ‘always help someone out whether or not they ever returned the favor.’ My mom taught me how to be strong. She is always pushing me to be my best no matter what life throws at me.  My grandmother is my inspiration and it’s from her that I get my positive outlook on life.  One of the happiest moments of my life was graduating from high school knowing that my grandmother, who had come all the way from Peru, was there to see me.  One of the saddest moments was watching her die five months later of lymphoma.  I have dedicated my life to finding the cure to this horrible cancer so others will not have to suffer like my grandmother.”

Herrera is 19 years old and immigrated here with her parents when she was just seven.  She knows her parents struggle to provide a life for her and her sister. Her father is a handy man and they clean houses for a living. They barely make enough to get by let alone send their daughter to college.  Despite all this, Herrera graduated with honors from high school and received three scholarships based on academics, including the prestigious Women of Tomorrow. Due to her legal status, she could not claim the scholarships and instead must pay out-of-state tuition to attend a local college. She has a double major in Biochemistry and Biophysics.  She works two jobs to pay tuition, contributes to the family’s finances and dreams of going to Georgetown Medical School.  She wants to open medical clinics for people who do not have adequate access to healthcare.

“I am an American teenager in every way that matters except paper. This is the only country I know and I aspire to be a citizen as soon as I can. Immigrant Americans move here for the promise of freedom and opportunity in this country. We need a common sense immigration process that recognizes the hardships and contributions of the people moving here, keeps families together and creates a roadmap to citizenship that’s fair. My motto is ‘Everything is possible’ and I believe that Congress, working together, can make this possible.”