Help a Dreamer's Dream Come True (DACA, COLLEGE)

Hello, World!

When you think of a DACA recipient or "DREAMer," you might not think of me. I was born in Jhelum, Pakistan and was raised in the United States. I went to primary, middle, high school, and college in the States, but I am not 'American.' After paying my own way through college, paying taxes, and earning an associate's degree at community college, I went on to earn a Bachelor's of Science degree in Industrial Labor Relations from Cornell University. And now, I have been accepted to graduate school at Harvard University. But, despite this, I am not a permanent resident or a citizen-- I am still not an American. Before posting this fundraiser, I wanted to take out a student loan but found out that this was not possible because DACA recipients are ineligible for student loans (see story below). While I am able to take out small personal loans, this does not nearly cover my cost of attendance. 

DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) is an executive order passed under the Obama Administration which protects minors brought to the United States against deportation. It does not grant nearly 800,000 young people legal status or a pathway to citizenship. The implications of DACA extend beyond immigration policy into the fabric of American society, echoing William Tyler Page's vision of The American's Creed; principles of freedom, equality, justice, and humanity for which American patriots sacrificed their lives and fortunes.

My name is Umaar Ehsan and throughout my lifetime there have been many moments that I felt “less than," moments like being called a “muslim who shouldn’t be here...” I never felt American because of our broken immigration system and unfortunate circumstances out of my control. Being undocumented presents a unique set of challenges and I'd like your help in tackling one of them. Being accepted to Harvard and having the opportunity to complete a graduate program serves as vindication that I was/am more than my circumstances. 

At Harvard’s Graduate School of Education I would like to major in Learning Design, Innovation, and Technology. This program offers the tools necessary to become an effective and compassionate technologist in the field of education. In my opinion, effectively educating our global citizens is the key to solving our most difficult problems. My challenging circumstances have taught me valuable lessons and I can offer a unique perspective with which I hope to impact the field of education and, ultimately the world around me. 


1.     Contributing my savings and a personal loan equaling $10k and saving more by working my full-time job along with additional evening shifts with gig work apps (DoorDash & Uber Eats).

2.     Applying to local and national scholarships.

3.     **Lowering the expense costs by supplementing with less expensive options.

Directly from HGSE Financial Packet   

CATEGORY                         AMOUNT
Tuition                                     $ 51,904.00
HU Health Insurance     $ 4,040.00
Student Health Fee         $ 1,242.00
Room & Board                    $ 21,130.00**
Books & Supplies              $ 866.00
Personal Expenses           $ 4,240.00**
Transportation                   $1,422.00**
TOTAL                                     $84,844.00/yr

HGSE Grant                      $9,500.00/semester

TOTAL                                  $19,000.00 for entire program


I can vividly remember the day I sat on the floor outside of an acute care unit in which my 52-year-old father was having emergency surgery. I watched a small team of paramedics bow their heads in anticipation and sorrow. Moments earlier, they had been tirelessly working on reviving my father after he developed asphyxiating blood clots in his lungs as a result of a head-on collision with a drunk driver. As I sat there, I tried to bribe God with promises of good deeds in return for my father’s life. I slowly turned my head and saw the surgical team quietly leaving the care unit. They didn’t look my way, purposely avoiding eye contact. Even before I could compute the gravity of that moment, a sense of isolation and dread began to settle in. I would have to navigate a new map of the world, one that was stifling in its unnecessary complexity. I did my best to hold back the river of tears as I prepared to be told what I had already known.

To my siblings and me, he was more than a father—he was our lifeline. He came to the United States with the belief that one day the doors of opportunity would open for his children. But, when he passed away, our lives were on hold and at any moment we could have been uprooted from our home because our immigration status was compromised. It meant that we could not work or drive legally, and that higher education would only be a dream. 

My Siblings and I, our youngest sister wasn't born yet. Yes, this was the 90's anddd.. I know, I know, you probably love the attire.

Unable to enroll in college, I educated myself by reading biographies at the public library and spoke to local leaders about issues impacting our community. Not having access to mainstream institutions of learning fosters a keen sense of creativity and resourcefulness — two characteristics that have influenced my work ethic and leadership. The Obama administration passed an executive order allowing people like myself to break out of the shackles of our uncertainty. For me, that journey began with my enrollment in community college, where I earned an A.S. degree in Business Administration with highest honors.  At Northern Virginia Community College (Annandale, VA campus), I was among a handful of students awarded the college’s most coveted distinction, “The NOVA SEAL,” for my achievements in academics, leadership, community service, and potential for future achievement. Following community college, I attended Cornell University’s School of Industrial & Labor Relations, earning a bachelor’s degree in ILR in December of 2020.

My upbringing has been an invaluable prism through which I have come to understand life’s challenges and it solidified my interest in higher education, particularly in the role of intuitive and adaptive software. While NVCC and Cornell offered a robust scholastic foundation to absorb information, I discovered my true passion for helping people through entrepreneurial endeavors and extracurricular pursuits. I want to continue to alleviate societal challenges with technology by developing this passion in HGSE’s LDIT program which bridges the gap between education and technology.

The current global health crisis is accelerating higher education’s paradigm shift from in person to remote learning. Online credentialing programs and learning platforms are forcing established institutions to innovate faster than ever before. At HGSE, I hope to learn about the implications of this transformation and better understand strategies to improve education by finding commonalities between learners across various platforms. I want to optimize these findings with adaptive technology to help learners enhance their education in any field, and ultimately help them become global citizens.

Across my car’s dashboard, I placed a sticker with the phrase “change the world,” partly to hide my car’s true mileage, mostly to remind myself of my duty to impact the world around me. At HGSE, I hope to not only have access to courses that marry traditional learning with contemporary realities, but also to learn from incredibly passionate students who are making a difference in higher education. This past year, I have had the opportunity to speak to HGSE faculty, students, and graduates, who all seem to have one thing in common; they temper ambition with compassion, which is a trait that I hope to exemplify as I move forward in academia and beyond.



Throughout my life and while applying to university, I’ve had a community of mentors, teachers, and friends who guided me along the way. Without them, without you, I would not have achieved the milestones I have already achieved or hope to achieve. I believe all people who make an impact share a similar story, that is, a community of support is necessary for realization of large-scale success. I understand this and am grounded in gratitude towards the community of support I’ve had.

Thank you for supporting my journey to Harvard and beyond.


Umaar Ehsan
Fairfax, VA

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