September 22, 2021
Media contact: Bailey Stacy | Communications Coordinator, Marketing and Communications | 405-744-2700 | [email protected]
Imagine moving to a foreign country at age 11 with nothing but clothes on your back. You, your mother, and your two sisters leave behind most of your family, including your father, to live in a place whose language you cannot understand.
That was reality for Kiara Luevano, a 4 + 1 student at Oklahoma-Tulsa State University who is currently pursuing her Bachelor of Management while pursuing her Masters of Business Administration.
After her parents’ divorce, the family immigrated from Ciudad JuÃ¡rez, Mexico, in search of new opportunities. She never imagined that these opportunities would lead her to OSU-Tulsa.
Luevano struggled in the American public school system. In Mexico, she attended a school where she played sports and wore uniforms. The environment was very different in America: there were no more uniforms, it was difficult to make friends, and she could no longer play sports because of the language barrier.
Eventually she started to understand English, but she was still afraid to speak for fear of being ridiculed. She avoided school as much as she could and eventually dropped out of high school to start working instead.
After meeting Christian Luevano, who would later become her husband, he encouraged her to return to high school. This time it was better: she was more familiar with the language and understood the lessons, had quickly made friends and loved school. But in her second year, she got pregnant. Deciding that she wanted to continue her education, Luevano found a program for pregnant teens and graduated from high school while enrolled at Tulsa Tech, earning her Certified Practical Nurse certificate.
More motivated than ever, she was determined to go to college and become a registered nurse. Reality struck hard when she realized that she was not eligible for federal financial aid or student loans because of her immigration status. If she wanted to continue her education, she would have to pay out of pocket. Luevano started out taking one course at a time. During a difficult discussion with her counselor, she learned that she could not take the test to become a registered nurse because she was undocumented.
âIt was the first time that I realized that I had no future in the United States,â said Luevano. “Even though I was working hard, I wasn’t really going to be successful.”
At that point, she decided to be a stay-at-home mom and focus on her growing family, including a second son. In 2012, President Barack Obama issued an Executive Order for Deferred Actions for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), allowing undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States before the age of 16 to apply for a work permit and d ‘two-year renewable studies.
Qualified for this initiative, Luevano completed the many documents necessary for her and her two sisters to be considered for the program. After an anxious 60-day wait, she received her work permit and was able to get her driver’s license. It all finally started to fall into place for Luevano and his family. She started a career at CAP Tulsa, a non-profit organization for early childhood education.
Working for CAP Tulsa provided free tuition for employees, finally allowing Luevano to return to school without financial strain. Still working full time, she added a full time class schedule to Community Care College and earned her associate degree. She didn’t stop there. Luevano has decided to register with OSU-Tulsa.
Shortly after starting classes at OSU-Tulsa, she also started a new job, which meant that she was no longer receiving tuition allowances. Determined to continue, she and her family made the financial sacrifices necessary for her to continue her education.
“I met Dr. [Matt] Bowler about pursuing an MBA, âLuevano said. âHe provided me with all of my options and told me that I could save time and money by signing up for the 4 + 1 program. My original goal was to start working on my MBA after I graduated with my bachelor’s degree, but due to my situation, the 4 + 1 option made more financial sense. ”
Bowler, director of OSU’s MBA program and associate professor of management at the Spears School of Business, bonded with Luevano during their experiences as first-generation students.
âWhen I heard her resilient story and learned that she might be our first student in our 4 + 1 program at the Tulsa campus, I was excited and wanted to create this opportunity for her,â Bowler said. “Students like Kiara are the reason I do the work I do.”
âBefore DACA, I didn’t think school was an option at all,â Luevano said. “After DACA, it is possible.”
Despite many difficult battles, including language barriers, government restrictions, minority status, and teenage pregnancy, Luevano pursues her dreams. She has experienced many ups – starting a family and starting school – as well as many downs, such as the language barrier and lack of support for undocumented migrants.
âAt the moment, DACA has no path to citizenship,â Luevano said. âThere is nothing I can do except renew my work permit every two years. If it were to be canceled at some point, I would lose my job and I would probably not be able to continue my studies.â¦ S ‘they cancel it, there is a possibility that I could be deported to Mexico. ”
There are a lot of “what ifs” in Luevano’s story, but she continues to chart a course and focus on earning her BA and MBA in hopes of helping others. people in his situation one day.
âI am a first generation student,â Luevano said. “I think it’s important for me to set high standards and one of the main things I want my kids to see is if mom could do it, so could they.”
This press release was produced by Oklahoma State University. The opinions expressed here are those of the author.