If I Knew Then What I Know Now: Keep Going!

Dear Reader,

If you are reading this now, you might be in my situation, or have been. I know it’s hard, but you’ve got this! Don’t let these labels restrict you from doing what you love. I will be sharing the story of my childhood and how it has shaped me to be the person I am now. I will also tell you about how I was still able to receive the Daniel Murphy scholarship, as well as get into an amazing boarding school on the East coast. 

But first, some background information. I am a 14 year old undocumented student who aspires to go to boarding school. I moved to the US when I was 5 and have had my immigration case pending ever since. My parents had moved us to the US from a small country in central Asia for one reason, to give my siblings and I better educational opportunities. 

As an undocumented child, I knew that I did not have the same lives as my friends did. I had been in court several times, waiting in the hallways, my parents then unaware that the lawyer they trusted and overfunded was unprofessional and extremely untrained. My sisters (8 and 14 at the time) and I, would wait for ages on those cold metal benches, the atmosphere daunting.

A kind office worker would soon come by to try and play games with us, distracting us from our parents’ voices in the door in front of us, testifying to the horrible corruption they’ve faced. I wish I knew then, that that man must have felt obligated to play with us, because it was his job to make us wait out there.

I knew that my friends never went through this, but it wasn’t until I was about 9 years old that my parents had the talk. The talk was a reality check. They explained to me that what I had experienced was not normal for a 5-6 year old to go through. They told me about how I was never to speak about our case and the dangers of police in America. “Do not open the door to anyone,” my father would tell me every single day. “If you open the door, you let them in, they will take you away.” I always thought he was giving me the ‘stranger danger’ talk, when he was really giving me the ‘beware of police and ICE’ talk. I wish I knew then, that this talk was one of the most formative discussions I would have with my parents. 

I became much more aware of myself after that event. I was informed that my parents would lose their work permits and driver’s licenses soon. This of course would change things for the worse. Without these two rights, our income flow would rapidly slow down. The next couple of years, I researched ways to conserve money as a teenager and came across many opportunities that would cost nothing to us. The first one is applying to an Academic Center school for 7th and 8th grade. I also applied and interviewed for a program called High Jump, then the DMSF scholarship. Through these extracurriculars I started my high school process as an undocumented student. I wish I knew then, that these were some of the best decisions I’ve made for myself. 

After some very stress inducing forms and essays, the requests for interviews came flooding in. I landed 15 interviews with 15 different schools. Thankfully I had Daniel Murphy on my side to help me through this nerve wracking process. Interviews were a breeze. It was what came after that was the most difficult part, the wait. I will save you the suspense, I was accepted into only 1 school. Although this was my top school, the disappointment was inevitable. I had received a few emails, letting me know that because I lacked a green card, I would have not even been considered. Despite being let down by these results, I think it was a good experience for me. I now know how to deal with disappointment and how to see the best in situations. 

My advice to you, reader, is to stay positive. Do your best, do not be discouraged and don’t give up. You’ve let them win if you give up. Just remember, I’ll be on your side!

Zhamilia Zhakypbaeva

Tabor Academy – DMSF Class of 2026

Photo by Metin Ozer on Unsplash