Homeless as a teen after parents deported, young woman follows dream, graduates law school

Updated: Jun. 21, 2021 at 5:41 AM MST
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CHICAGO (WLS) - A young woman is working to inspire others despite being left homeless as a teenager.

Daihana Estrada was just 17 years old when she was left homeless after her parents, who had come to the U.S. illegally 20 years earlier, were deported from Utah to Mexico.

Now she is a law school graduate and is hoping to inspire others.

“Know that you can do it,” said the now 29-year-old Estrada. “Have that courage to start that dream, and have that resilience to stay on that path.”

Estrada became homeless or doubled up, a type of homelessness, when she was 17 after her parents were deported.

Born in California, she chose to move in with her older brother, who lived in Chicago, but the problems only continued.

“It was very unstable because, although he was with me, he was going through his own issues, so I was on my own,” she said.

As a senior at John Hancock College Preparatory High School, she ate what she could where she could and slept on the couch of a friend.

She picked up a job in retail to help support herself.

Estrada may have been on her own, but she would soon not be alone.

Her senior English teacher, Vanessa Fuentes, who is now the principal at Hancock, stepped up to help, she said, because she believed in Estrada’s dream for herself.

The educator taught the student life skills and then some.

“She’s lived with my family, and we’ve built a very strong relationship over the past 10 years,” Fuentes said.

Despite all the difficulties, Estrada graduated high school and was accepted to the University of Illinois, Chicago.

She was given a full ride on a scholarship from the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, which helped her with her family’s housing.

Last month Estrada, who now has her own apartment in Pilsen, graduated for Loyola University School of Law, the first scholarship recipient to do so.

“You belong in any space you want to be in,” she told the the graduating class of her high school alma mater during their Soldier Field ceremony Sunday.

Estrada told them the truth about her struggle while encouraging them to never give up.

“Any dream that they have is doable and to go for it. You can do it, and we’ll be on the other side waiting for you,” she said.

Copyright 2021 WLS via CNN Newsource. All rights reserved.