Arelis R. Hernández writes in the Washington Post:
“The still life of rotting fruit captured the attention of Jon Rudnicki, an admissions counselor for the Maine College of Art who came to Washington last fall to review the portfolios of prospective students. So did the dark self-portrait titled “Slave With Agreement,” which shows artist Rafael Rodriguez, his hands tied with rope.
Before Rudnicki realized it, he had spent more than 20 minutes listening to the skinny young man from Prince George’s County talk about isolation, frustration and optimism — far longer than the five minutes he typically allows for student meetings.
“The intentionality behind the work was profound. He has a story to tell,” Rudnicki said of Rodriguez, a senior at Northwestern High School who is set to graduate next month. “I literally see thousands of kids and thousands of pieces of art, and it says something when a student’s face and artwork sticks out. I wanted to help him find his voice.”
Rudnicki lobbied for his college to admit Rodriguez, 21, who fled violence in his native El Salvador four years ago and entered the United States illegally, eventually coming to live with an aunt in Maryland.
The school offered him a scholarship that would pay nearly half of the annual $35,000 cost for four years.
And unlike thousands of other undocumented immigrants of college age, Rodriguez has a chance of being able to seek federal student loans to cover the rest, thanks to a little-known but increasingly in-demand program that will give him legal residency — and is easier for young people to access in Maryland than in most of the rest of the country.
“When I make art, I feel free,” said Rodriguez, who never painted before coming to the United States. “I want to get my education to be an art teacher, have my own art studio and teach people from my country the importance of getting an education. That’s the only way things will change there.”
Read the complete story at the link.
Rodriguez’s attorney, Diane McHugh Martinez, is one of the best! She appeared before me many times at the U.S. Immigration Court in Arlington, Virginia, and always had creative ideas on how to use the law to save lives and make our country better. She helped many wonderful young people and families to achieve a new start and contribute to the greatness of America. And, she was always able to “reach across the aisle” and enlist the assistance of the fine DHS Assistant Chief Counsel in Arlington in “making the system work.”
As I used too say, “Building America, one case at a time!”