Carolina Gonzalez, 18, of Coral Gables, Fla., a senior at Our Lady of Lourdes Academy in Miami, started a nonprofit organization that has helped more than 500 undocumented young immigrants apply for temporary residence and employment in the U.S. under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, and has raised more than $22,000 to pay the application fees of those who cannot afford them. Carolina's grandparents fled Cuba to give their family and future generations a better life, Carolina said. "Since the time I was able to hold a conversation, my mother would remind me of what they went through. And always at the end of the discussion, she would accentuate how, because of her parents' decision, I was born an American citizen," said Carolina. "It has been engraved in me to never take my citizenship for granted."
Carolina had been volunteering in various ways since she was 5, but was trying to think of some way to do more for her peers in her community. When her father, an immigration lawyer, mentioned how difficult it was for young immigrants to apply for deferred status, Carolina realized she had her answer. She began organizing clinics for DACA applicants and recruiting pro-bono lawyers to help them through the complex and time-consuming application process. She also raises funds to give small grants to applicants who cannot afford the $465 application fee. "I am not only giving them hope for their future, but also giving them the chance to achieve the American dream," said Carolina.