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Julissa Arce, and Her Road Towards Earning the American Dream

Julissa Arce is co-founder and president of Ascend Educational Fund, a program for mentoring and awarding scholarships for immigrant students.

The Woman Post | Catalina Mejia

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Julissa is also a member of the Board of Directors of the National Immigration Law Center and Spring College. Before becoming a social justice activist, she built an important career at Wallstreet, working at the prestigious Goldman Sachs and Merrill Lynch.

The speaker and writer, Julissa Arce, born in Taxco (Guerrero, Mexico), is known for being one of the most successful immigrants in the last decade. She was named one of People en Español’s Most Powerful Women of 2017 and 2019 Women of the Year by the City of Los Angeles. Arce is an influential woman in the fight for social justice, immigrant rights, and educational equality. When Julissa was 11 years old, she arrived in the United States and remained undocumented for 15 years. Soon after she graduated from high school, a new law allowed undocumented Texas students to attend public universities and she enrolled at the University of Texas at Austin.

Arce’s Parents returned to Mexico in 2001, and she worked at their food cart business selling funnel cakes, whipped cream, and cinnamon, but unfortunately, the cart lost its place in a market square.  When she turned 19, Julissa acquired a fake card and social security number. In a recent interview, Julissa mentioned “I was nervous about it because you never know those papers are going to work. That was the only choice I had. I didn’t give up on myself and I didn’t give up on my aspirations and I didn’t give up on the sacrifice my parents had already made and the sacrifice I had made. So, to me, as difficult as the choice was, the choice was clear. I had to take the next step.” Thanks to her hard work, Arce managed to get an internship at Goldman Sachs, and was soon promoted to a full-time job as an analyst. When she was only 27, she became vice-president, earning more than $340,000 a year.

However, soon after starting her formal job at Goldman Sachs, she had to submit her fake documents, fearing getting caught and being deported to her country. Fortunately, this did not happen, although she had to invent several excuses not to travel to London for work, due to the fear of being deported. Nowadays, Julissa has become a best-selling author of My (Underground) American Dream and Someone Like Me. She seeks to inspire others and change the way immigrants are perceived by the world. Currently, Julissa is a speaker at College Campuses in the USA, and events such as TEDx, the White House Latino Policy Summit, the Democratic National Convention, and the Forbes Reinventing America Summit.

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In a recent interview, Julia was asked if her life story had a happy ending. She replied that her life was no chick flick, but she did consider herself happy and expressed her desire to work hard to enable other immigrants to achieve happiness too. By narrating her experience when working for earning the American Dream, Arce depicts the true costs that lie beneath this difficult path for immigrants. Her story and hard work will historically serve as an example to many other people who leave their countries to search for better opportunities for themselves and their families.