High school teacher helps undocumented students go to college

Published: Jun. 8, 2012 at 9:56 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 8, 2012 at 9:56 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Vance High School teacher Christina Sanchez is looking forward to seeing her senior's graduate. Many of her students are headed to college because of Sanchez's help.

Four years ago, CMS recruited her from Spain to teach English as a second language.

She immediately realized her students lacked the resources and knowledge to get into college.

"They didn't have many people who supported them or who knew what they needed," said Sanchez.

Since then, she's helped 80 of her high-achieving students obtain scholarships.  Most of them are undocumented like Juan Ramos.

He moved to the United States from El Salvador at age 15.

"You had always thought about going to college?," asked WBTV reporter Sarah Batista.

"Yeah, that was like my dream, my entire life," said Ramos.

Ramos has a 3.5 GPA and he wants to be an architect.

Sanchez helped him secure a scholarship at Johnson C. Smith which is a private predominantly black university.

"That's something that can change a student, if you say to a 9th grader, 'okay, you have very good grades, you can get into college for free', that student is going to study, he's not going to drop out," said Sanchez.

According to the Pew Hispanic Center, 65,000 illegal immigrants graduate each year from U.S. High schools but only between 5-10 percent attend universities.

Some colleges and universities charge out of state tuition to undocumented students.

Ramos and thousands of other students are hoping legislators will eventually pass the Dream ACT.

The bill creates a path to citizenship for undocumented students who attend college or go into the military.

Opponents like Mecklenburg County Commissioner Bill James view the bill as giving amnesty to illegal immigrants.

"I don't think you can pass the Dream Act until you fix the problem with immigration, and we haven't fixed the problem with immigration," said James.

Sanchez says she's only received positive feedback about her work with students, but she knows the critics are out there.

"I respect that, the thing is that I'm a teacher, I want to help my students and I do it, I am very efficient and I do it,"said Sanchez.

Copyright 2012 WBTV. All rights reserved.