Living in Indianapolis since she was 5 years old, Marelyn Posadas-Cuaya felt like everyone else who called the city and the Hoosier State home. Surrounded by immediate and extended family, she never knew she would be considered "different."
But as a DACA student, the more she went to school, the more she was exposed to that mindset.
"When I left Mexico, I was just around my family, and everyone else there was Hispanic," she said. "And then moving here, I was still surrounded by family -- until I went to school.
"Going in, I didn't see any difference between the other students and me," she said. "From my perspective, I couldn't say they were different or why they were different. But for students seeing me, it was already a social construct, and you can quickly pick up when something feels off."
Nevertheless, Posadas-Cuaya persevered through the verbal abuse and playground bullies that far too many children endure. As she progressed through the school system, the obstacles grew with her, and when she ready to start looking at colleges, being a DACA student just complicated it more.
"Along with worrying about paying for school and housing, being in the program can present different problems," she said. "For instance, right now I can't get the funding because they haven't received my new verification card. It's frustrating because people don't seem to understand that we're working under a time limit."
Despite these hardships, Posadas-Cuaya has excelled at IUPUI. Her accolades and achievements have stacked up over the years. She holds a coordinator position with the Alternative Spring Break program, which lets students find a project or cause they're passionate about and -- you guessed it -- take a trip during break to help further the cause.
Posadas-Cuaya also works as a community health advocate for Community Health Network, connecting patients from her neighborhood through clinics and emergency rooms to a reliable health network.
She's kept her nose to the grindstone, and it's earned her a spot as one of the 2020-21 Newman Civic fellows for the impact she's had on her community.
"It's kind of awkward being in the spotlight like this," she said. "It's definitely different, but I'm proud to be a DACA student and want to be an advocate for anyone in my community who wishes they had a chance."