FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — In 2009, Aaron Robles had a scholarship from the State of Indiana to pursue graphic design at a Fort Wayne university.
He was never allowed to use the money.
“Despite how much I worked or how much I did or how good I was, those doors were just closed,” he said. “Because of my documentation.”
Robles is a “DREAMer” – a title that stems from the 2012 Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act that failed to pass through Congress.
He was brought to the U.S. from Mexico as a baby by his parents, who lacked proper documentation.
Robles applied for the scholarship using his valid social security number, but “it had lots of limits on it that wouldn’t allow me to claim a state scholarship or get a driver’s license or get a valid ID.”
The hardships drove him to find new ways to succeed.
“If the door isn’t there, you just got to make it, right?”
Robles said he finally was allowed to get a driver’s license and work permit when President Barack Obama used an executive order to defer action on childhood arrivals, sometimes called DACA, which is not permanent law.
“Removing DACA removes our ability to work or pay our mortgage. All of us [DREAMers] are in our mid 30s, maybe even early 40s with full lives.”
He appears to have made the most of those opportunities.
Among his three older companies is Hyprnova, an agency focused on design, strategy, and social media.
Robles recently opened his fourth company, Arepiz – Indiana. The pop-up food stand offers Columbian sandwiches stuffed into a tasty pocket bread.
He also learned to be more comfortable in his heritage.
“Coming here as immigrants, especially undocumented, our goal is always ‘fit in, fit in, fit in’ so you lose a lot of your culture. As I get older. I’m like, wait, no, being bilingual is a superpower. Being able to have the tenacity due to those hardships has made me better, right? I feel extremely grateful.”
Beyond speaking to 15,000 students at the SkillsUSA convention in Atlanta, Robles said he shares his experiences with young people in Fort Wayne, too.
“There’s people out there who need to hear your story. They need to hear what you’ve done, because when I was young, I never thought I had an incredible story. I was just a kid doing his best.”