Visa problem means valedictorian will have to leave U.S. to attend college

3:39 PM, Jun 13, 2012   |    comments
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Jireh Lee Silva

WRC - Nerisa Silva is about to say goodbye to her 17-year-old daughter.

An international special education teacher in Prince George's County, Maryland, Silva brought her two children to this country four years ago legally, as dependents under her visa.

"I came here and I thought I was blessed," she said. "And I said you have a lot of life here in America."

Her daughter, Jireh Lee Silva, was this year's valedictorian at Wise High School in Upper Marlboro, but she has no green card of her own -- and a recent hiccup interfered in processing Nerisa's green card.

"The school system was debarred from hiring teachers like me," she said.

And while Jireh has dreams of becoming a doctor and has been accepted into a number of colleges, she doesn't have the means to pay for them.

"I don't have the money to pay for a student visa," she said. "I don't have the money to go to college."

And Jireh can't apply for financial aid.

"First thing they ask for is a Social Security number, which I don't have," she explains.

She says all the accolades she's worked to achieve mean nothing now that she can't stay in this country.

"I won't really need them," Jireh said.

Her to-do list is short.

She's packing her things and getting ready to head back to the Philippines by next month in order to start college there.

Jireh says it's obviously not her first choice, but even the top universities in the Philippines are substantially less expensive than those in the United States.

One dollar is the equivalent of about 40 Philippine pesos.

For $1,000, Jireh can afford to go to college for two years.

Congresswoman Donna Edwards' office is currently looking into the matter to see if anything can be done.

For Nerisa, the only thing she says can keep her family together is a miracle.

"I think by the grace of God we will be able to overcome all these things," she says.


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