Supporting Students Impacted by Migration and Deportation Zoom Conference Recap

By Michell Diaz-Flores

The zoom conference Supporting Students Impacted by Migration and Deportation was presented by Juan Terrazas from scholar systems who shares his story of overcoming adversity as an undocumented Mexican Immigrant. At the age of 14, his father was deported to Mexico and his mother returned to Mexico to care for her dying father. Juan decided to stay in Dallas, Texas because he realized the importance of obtaining an education in the United States. This event dramatically changed his life but despite this challenge, he was determined to overcome his struggles and to obtain higher education. He received an associate’s degree from El Centro Community College in 2011 and received a bachelor’s degree in communications from the University of Texas of the Permian Basin in 2020. For more information about his journey make sure to check out his first published book Left in America.

Juan Terrazas was left in Dallas with a cousin and her boyfriend but at the age of 15, he was kicked out by her cousin’s boyfriend. The words “I just don’t like you” were what he told Juan to justify why he was getting kicked out. Juan felt abandoned and living from place to place. Juan knew that the only way to get out of the situation he was in was to receive an education so he was committed to accomplish this dream for himself and his family. Many times he felt like giving up but the promise he made to his family and himself filled him with determination. As Juan mentioned in his presentation “what was impossible became possible” now he works for the Path Project in Georgia in which he works with schools, parents, businesses, park owners, and churches in providing academic guidance. He is also part of an organization called scholar systems in which he works with promised students as an influencer and educator. 

Terraza provides four steps that allow you to care for students that you work with. The first step is to encourage yourself because if you’re not taking care of yourself then it’s going to be hard to help the people around you. It’s important to remind yourself why you choose this career and what is the impact you want to cause. The second step is attitude of gratitude because people that are grateful can cope better with adversity. By just being happy and grateful you provide that empowering atmosphere to students. The third step is having support groups in which you can share your issues to not handle the difficulties of life by yourself. The last step is to see the world from the students’ perspectives. We tend to judge people from their exterior. Instead, we must try to figure out why they are struggling and you start building empathy instead of sympathy. 


Actions and words have a lasting impact on students. Terraza mentions some ways to speak life into these students is to tell them that you are valuable, you have a purpose, you exist for a reason, you will make an impact in people’s lives, you are a victor, and your circumstances do not determine your attitude but you determine your attitude to the circumstances. 


“Children are likely to live up to what you believe of them” -Lady Bird Johnson


The Success Formula

E(Events) + R(Responses) = O(Outcomes)

In the case of Juan Terraza, the events that occurred to him were when his dad was deported, him being kicked out and his house hopping. His response was to continue going to school to receive his education and the outcome is that he is a guest speaker sharing his story. 


Develop Resiliency 

  1. Competence – Is the ability to know how to handle stressful situations effectively
  2. Confidence – Is the belief in one’s own abilities and is rooted incompetence
  3. Connection – children with close ties to friends, family, and community groups are likely to have a stronger sense of security and sense of belonging. 
  4. Character – children with “character” enjoy a strong sense of self-worth and confidence
  5. Contribution – If children can experience personally contributing to the world, they can learn the powerful lesson that the world is a better place because they are in it.
  6. Coping – children who have a wide repertoire of coping skills are able to cope more effectively and are better prepared to overcome life’s challenges.
  7. Control – when children realize that they have control over their decisions and actions, they are more likely to know how to make choices in a way that they can bounce back from life’s challenges.

-Dr. Ginsburg 


Every student has a story and learning about Juan Terrazas’ story is very inspiring and significant because of how he was able to overcome adversity. A lot of students deeply struggle from a variety of challenges and all they need is a helping hand from someone who can influence them as a guiding figure. My parents also came to the United States from Mexico to give their children an educated life compared to theirs. Like Juan Terraza, I want to keep pursuing my education because I have realized how education can open many doors and connections in the future. My commitment to education was challenged when my dad had to go to Mexico with my mom to continue his process of pursuing American residency; during that time, I was afraid that my dad was going to spend months or even years in Mexico. I wasn’t motivated at all and I felt defeated. It took me a while to build enough courage to realize that whatever happens with my dad I still need to keep pushing forward with my education to make him proud and remain a role model for my younger siblings. Luckily for us, he was able to successfully get his residency. That experience shaped my character by making me feel mentally strong when facing an obstacle. By not letting obstacles defeat me when hope is lost, it taught me to anchor myself to my loved ones that bring me hope to overcome anything in my way. In my case, I have realized that how many obstacles and the way you overcome them have a significant effect in shaping your character. Hearing Juan Terrazas’ story helped me remember how much the challenge with dad’s residency was a defining moment in my life. Hope is something that a lot of students that are impacted by migration and deportation carry on and that same hope is what allows them to never give up on obstacles they may face. Everyone has learned valuable lessons from challenges they have faced and as Juan Terrazas said “I do not control events. I do control my responses.”