DENVER (CBS4) – Marissa Molina, a Colorado woman who is a “dreamer,” never thought she’d get through school, let alone soar to the top of her profession. Now she’s making history as the first DACA recipient to serve on a Colorado state board.

(credit: CBS)

Molina serves on the Board of Trustees at Metropolitan State University of Denver.

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Gov. Jared Polis says state boards need to reflect the communities they serve and at Metro 25 percent of the student body is Latino. That’s the most of any university in the state. And many of those students are “dreamers” like Molina.

“When I think about the opportunity to sit on the board of Metro State University, I think about the message I’m sending to kids across the state of Colorado.”

Molina does an interview with CBS4 along with Gov. Jared Polis. (credit: CBS)

Molina is an against-all-odds kind of story. She was brought here from Mexico when she was 9 and qualified for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. Since then she has been both a teacher and state director of a national immigrant rights group.

“When we saw that nobody who was a DACA recipient had ever served on a board of one of our institutions of higher education we had to ask, ‘Can they (legally)?’ … and then with the amazing, impressive application that Marissa put forward, there was really no queston that of course we wanted to choose her to serve on Metro’s board,” Polis said.

(credit: CBS)

Polis says Molina has lived experience.

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“I know what it’s like to struggle to pay for school,” she told CBS4. “I know what it’s like to be a DACA student and say DACA and say, like, ‘I only qualify for 10 out of the 50 scholarships.'”

She knows, too, how important it is to have someone on your side. For her, it was a high school counselor.

“When I told him I didn’t have a Social Security number, instead of saying ‘I’m sorry I can’t help you,’ he said ‘I don’t know what that means but I’m going to walk this journey with you and what I can guarantee is that you’ll never be alone, so when I think about why I’m in this chair today, I think about him,” she said.

(credit: CBS)

She thinks, too, about the director of admissions at Fort Lewis College who believed in her. But most of all, she thinks about her parents.

“I called my mom the day that I received the news and I said to her, ‘Remember six years ago when I sat in front of you and I told you that I was going drop out of school because didn’t have money to pay for it anymore?’ And I said ‘This is for you, because you didn’t give up on me and my dreams and you were willing to sacrifice to do whatever you could to get me here.'”

“And because you did that for me I’m going to make sure that there are 10 and 20 and 30 kids behind me who have someone who is going to fight for them like you fought for me.”

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Molina says while she was lucky to have people who helped her get through college, students shouldn’t have to rely on luck. As a member of the Board of Trustees at Metro, she plans to put systems in place to give other students the same opportunity to get a higher education.