During his speech given at the Fall 2019 commencement ceremony, Hector Robledo encouraged his fellow graduates to follow their dreams. After all, it's all he's ever done.
Throughout his time as an undergraduate at UNT Dallas, and now as a graduate student pursuing his master's in Public Leadership, Robledo has immersed himself in campus and community initiatives, which led him to being named last spring a Newman Civic Fellow, a prestigious national award that recognizes community-committed students who are change-makers and public problem-solvers at their institutions. In mid-November, Robledo represented UNT Dallas at the Newman Civic Fellowship Conference 2019 in Boston.
Robledo, who is undocumented and a recipient of the dream act, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), said the conference was an experience he will cherish forever.
The conference 200 student leaders from across the country at the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the U.S. Senate.
"Inside was a chamber that was a replica of how the U.S Senate was structured," Robledo said. "We acted as senators and represented our respective states. We discussed and voted on pressing national issues such as the Green New Deal. Climate change is a national issue and each of us had to either approve or reject the bill as if we were U.S senators."
Robledo, however, said he was surprised to learn how many state leaders are not familiar with DACA. The program's fate now depends on how the U.S. Supreme Court will rule after the Trump administration appealed to the court to end the program that allows those brought to the U.S. illegally as children to legally work and go to school. Many of those children -- called DREAMers -- are now college students like Robledo.
"I am a DACA student and had to explain the complexity of this issue with different individuals and propose possible solutions that can possibly assuage the economic and social burden by not being documented," Robledo said.
Robledo said he will apply the leadership values he learned at the conference to his graduate program at UNT Dallas.
"I am thankful for this opportunity and would like to pay it forward by continuing to serve as a leader here on campus," Robledo said.