StoryCorps at SHC: Naomi Kiarie

It was like a weight lifted off your shoulders.

Naomi Kiarie: I was born in Africa, in Kenya, to my mom and my dad, and I have an older sister. And my mom, I just call her my superhero. She had this huge ambition growing up. I remember she told me when I was born, she'd always wanted to come to the states, she wanted to come to America. She was like, "I'm doing it. I'm going." I was basically raised in Massachusetts, and sort of had that single mom upbringing, but always like, "Do whatever you want to do." My mom's like, "You can do whatever you want." I've basically done the things that I set my mind to. You can too. And then I got to high school, and realized I was undocumented. And no one really told me when I was growing up, because it probably would have made it harder to tell your kid to do whatever they want, and then also be like, "Oh, by the way, you can't really do anything because you're not legally supposed to here."

And that's when my, how you have your ambitions of the things you want to do, just slowly started to just become smaller, really small. And I'm like, "Well, what am I supposed to do?" And my mom's like, "We'll put you in community college. Go take your prerequisite classes," and very much recommended I be a nurse. I just started taking my pre-reqs and had kind of faced the same dilemma my mom did where, a lot of my options were limited for school and I probably would've had to leave the country. And then, sometime in the summer of 2012, my mom texts me and she's like, "Our lawyer just called and there's this new law that they're passing for kids like you." And she's like, "I think you get to stay." So I got home and turned on the news, and the president was talking about deferred action for childhood arrivals, which essentially has just changed my life. Because I, all of a sudden had a social security number, I was able to get a driver's license, I was able to start and finish nursing school. The ambition started again. I was like, "Yeah, I can go back to things I wanted to do." So I became a nurse, and I just started my career, and ended up in the emergency room. And I love the adrenaline of being in the ER, and I love my coworkers.

Before DACA, it was like that stuck feeling. But it's maybe like hopelessness almost, where you have this idea of the life that you want for yourself. And growing up, nobody really tells you, when you're a little kid, they tell you can do whatever you want, whatever you can put your mind to. And finding out that you can't, your world just becomes really small. And when DACA passed, and I think a lot of people that I've talked to who had the same experience, it was like a weight lifted off your shoulders. I get to be in this country that I've lived in my whole life, where before it felt like I wasn't welcome here, and didn't really know how to live as an adult. And then all of a sudden just being like, "Do whatever you want. We see you. We recognize how you came here, we don't want to punish you for it. And you get to do whatever you want." That was really freeing for me and honestly, could not have come at a better time because I was about to apply to nursing school, and it felt just like the most perfect timing of anything that's ever happened in my life.

Sound Editor: Amy Hu

We use a transcription service, and though we do check for accuracy, there may be errors. Please contact us if you have any questions.

We'd love to hear from you.

We're here to answer your questions, schedule your recording, and guide you throughout the process.