As a DACA student, Marcko Burrola faced big barriers for entry into college. But this month, he graduated from the University of Arizona with a Bachelor’s of Science in Business Administration, with an emphasis in marketing and a Spanish minor.
As a senior at Sunnyside High School and one of the top 50 students in his class, Burrola was a prime candidate to receive scholarships, but because of his status as an undocumented student, he was losing out on those financial opportunities.
Luckily, Burrola learned about and applied to College Success Arizona, a scholarship and advising program for those who may find it difficult to pursue a post-secondary education. Burrola made some strategic choices after receiving his scholarship from College Success Arizona. With a full-ride scholarship to Pima Community College, Burrola decided to attend community college first before transferring to the University of Arizona because as a DACA student he had to pay out-of-state tuition, about twice that of in-state.
In his second and final year at Pima Community College and after 23 years, Burrola’s mother attained legal status, meaning Burrola also attained legal status. He then transferred to the University of Arizona, with aspirations of studying criminal justice and Spanish translation. However, Burrola had doubts about what he really wanted to pursue as a career.
After telling his College Success adviser his interests in business, she helped him make the right connections, which led him to the Eller College of Management.
Despite the support he received from College Success and later as a member of the Hispanic Honorary at Eller, Burrola faced negative feedback from some advisors in the college who did not think he would succeed.
“I just spoke to the wrong people and maybe they weren’t careful with what they said and I took that very personally,” said Burrola. “I reached out and I didn’t get the answer that I wanted and it just kind of made me feel even more down and even more negative about where I stood and if I made the right decision or what I wanted to do with my life.”
Burrola felt like he was not the perfect candidate for Eller as someone who had not studied business before and tried to tailor his experiences to the business school, only to realize his unique experience set him apart.
Throughout his time at Pima and then the university, he worked to pay for his living expenses as well as school books and materials, because as a “first gen college student, you don’t have the privilege to just be a full-time college student.” He would work on his homework before work in his car and during his 30 minute break, then after work.
Even if he did not have to work and he could go back in time, Burrola said he would still work while attending school.
“It prepares you and it teaches you to be a little bit more humble and more appreciative of that full time job after college,” said Burrola who worked at a fast food restaurant. “It would give me that motivation to say, ‘I personally don’t want to keep doing this for the rest of my life so I want to go to college so I can be able to work where I want to work, where I love to work.’”
Burrola thanked his parents for making him the person he is today, and said he learned his work ethic from them.
He remembers his mother attended tutoring classes after school with him so she could learn to do his homework and be sure Burrola was completing it correctly and also learned English alongside him.
“As a child you can learn so much faster, but her being in a country where she didn’t know the language as much and she was scared to be profiled or discriminated, she could still go and ask for help to teach her so I could know, and my dad I would always see him waking up really early, working two jobs just to be able to help us have a home, have AC, being able to go to school, have good shoes, a good backpack,” said Burrola.
Burrola has accepted a position with TTI (Techtronic Industries) as an event marketing specialist and plans to continue his education in the future to pursue a doctorate degree. He hopes to inspire and help other DACA students to achieve their goals.
“I don’t want those students to feel like they’re stuck or like it’s impossible because there’s so much talent out there, especially for DACA students, because DACA students work so much, and they work so hard and so do first gen students, to get to where they are,” said Burrola. “I want them to continue to achieve their goals and break the stereotypes and break the statistics.”