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Meet three refugee college students in Mexico striving for their dreams | #schoolsaftey

In Mexico, refugee students from Central and South America are taking advantage of a second chance to return to school and work toward their dreams. For millions of young people worldwide, being forced to flee their homes often means a long-term – and sometimes permanent – interruption of their education. Globally, 68 percent of refugee children are enrolled in primary school, 37 percent in high school and as few as 4 percent are enrolled in college. 

Part of the UN Refugee Agency’s work to protect refugees in Mexico is to facilitate access to education and schools. Education access and academic achievement have multiple positive impacts for refugees and their host communities. In the short term, global refugee education programs help prevent child marriage and child labor. In the long term, educated refugees are empowered both socially and economically to help build stronger communities and brighter futures for themselves.

Meet three refugee college students now living in Mexico who are just steps away from realizing their dreams of earning a college degree.


Natalie and her family were forced to flee violence in Nicaragua five years ago. Since then, her family has found stability and a chance to rebuild in Mexico. Her parents are employed at a local automotive factory, her siblings are back in school and Natalie is a scholarship student pursuing a degree in chemical engineering. 

“The scholarship was like a light at the end of a tunnel,” shares Natalie. “My situation is so much better than it was five years ago.”

In addition to pursuing her degree, Natalie teaches computer programming classes at a local high school. A bright future lies ahead for Natalie and she hopes to continue her education and build a career where her work helps others.

“I graduate in a year and then I will start working and giving back to Mexico which has given me so much.”

Beyond academic and career success, Natalie explains that her immediate next steps are more personally rooted and speak to the long refugee journey she has been on. “I want to find myself, I want to belong somewhere,” she says. “I think that feeling [of belonging], as someone who is a refugee is very important.” 


Eduardo fled Venezuela in 2017, arriving in Mexico alone. He was a student in Venezuela, but when Eduardo was forced to flee, he missed two years of school.

“When I first arrived in Mexico it was difficult to go back to school because I had to work,” Eduardo shares. He worked in retail stores and became a store manager to support himself. Eduardo explains that while he was eager to return to school, he was happy to be safe. During those first two years, he became what he affectionately referred to as “the most Mexican Venezuelan you’ll meet.”

In 2019, Eduardo earned a scholarship to return to school and is now on track to graduate in 2024 with a degree in finance and business administration. 

Although Eduardo is in Mexico alone, his motivation to succeed is driven by his love for his family still in Venezuela. “The dream for now is to get my diploma. This is a big achievement and I’ll be able to help my mom back in Venezuela.”

“My biggest success is that my mom is happy and has peace of mind knowing I’m happy,” Eduardo says. “I rebuilt everything from zero here in Mexico and she is proud of me.” 


Five years ago, Leidys made the painfully difficult decision to flee Venezuela alone. Her neighborhood was no longer safe and access to education was no longer guaranteed. In Mexico, she was welcomed and received the support and care she needed. She also found inspiration from the Mexican artist, Yazmin Huerta, to pursue her dream of studying graphic design.

In just five years, Leidy’s life has been transformed.

“When you arrive alone and with nothing, a little bit of support goes a long way,” shares Leidys. “With that support, I’m happy to say that I’m graduating college soon.”

Fighting back tears of joy, Leidys also shares that she will soon be reunited with her parents and they will arrive in Mexico in time to attend her graduation.

How to help:

USA for UNHCR and its compassionate donors have been strong supporters of helping refugees restart their lives in Mexico through the Local Integration Program. Supported with more than $4.2 million in funding since 2018, the program has helped thousands of families restart their lives and represents a new and innovative way donors are helping refugees thrive.

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