As an energetic kid with a penchant for science and math, Nathali Bertran dreamt of building a spaceship and visiting the moon. Her current job isn’t lightyears away from this either. She now builds more terrestrial machines as a design engineer for Honda R&D Americas in Raymond, Ohio. In addition to engineering cars, Bertran is also part of a team working to streamline and simplify the process of applying for DACA (that’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) status that allows recipients to attend public universities and garner U.S. work authorization.
Bertran herself is a DACA recipient. A straight “A” student in high school, her teachers and peers all expected her to score entry into a prestigious college. Yet, Bertran held back from applying – paralyzed by the truth of her undocumented status. College seemed out of the realm of possibility until she approached one a guidance counselor who assisted her in applying for DACA and garnering a scholarship to New York’s City College.
Honda R&D recruited Bertran straight out of college. Now in Columbus, Bertran’s serves the Latino community through Honda’s Latino Dreams in Action (L DIA) Program. In addition to this, Bertran and a team of others during Give Back Hack– a local event designed to address social issues through technology – got the idea for a type of software called DACA Time. The hope is that DACA Time will be a “secure platform to simplify the DACA application process for new and renewing applicants.” DACA Time’s organizing team is comprised entirely of volunteers seeking to simplify the tedious and time-consuming application process (which Bertran has been through many times).
DACA Time is currently searching for videographers and other volunteers with coding and tech savviness. Feel free to contact them here if you’re interested in assisting or in need of help yourself.
Listen to more from Nathali Bertran below:
When Honda calls:
🎧 Listen (3:37)
“As a little girl, my dream was to go to the moon… Then in high school I started thinking, ‘What should I do?’ I’ve always been really good at math and science, so this kind of just led to engineering. I wanted to be an aerospace engineer – that was my dream. And then I figured not a lot of schools offer aerospace engineering, so I went into mechanical engineering and then I got into cars after that… I mean, they’re used more often and everybody has one so I think it’s a little more relevant than a plane or spacecraft.”
“I’m originally from Lima, Peru. My parents immigrated to the US when I was about 9 years old. We basically arrived in New York City… I grew up mainly in Astoria, New York… went to school in New York City… and then went to college in New York City too. I gave my resume at our career fair and six months later, Honda calls me for a job… They brought me out here, showed me Columbus and said, ‘Here’s an offer, do you want to take it or not?’… That’s how I ended up here!”
Reaching adulthood in Columbus, Ohio:
🎧 Listen (4:20)
“Being that I was nine, it was kind of like a blur… I was in a new place [New York City], I didn’t speak English at all, so that was a big transition. The weather was another big factor. I always remember this one time I went outside because it was sunny, wearing jeans and a shirt and it was like 20 degrees. That doesn’t happen in South America. If it’s cold, it’s cloudy and nasty and rainy, but not in New York!… Moving to Columbus was sort of my first adult transition… Here I was on my own completely for the first time.”
Becoming a Dreamer:
🎧 Listen (2:23)
“One of the most challenging points in my life was going to college. In high school I was your average ‘A’ student… Everybody had really, really high expectations of where I should go to college. But I knew I couldn’t go to college because I didn’t have legal status. It was that desperation and not knowing if I could go to college like I was supposed to… Everything seems really normal until that point comes along. That was a difficult time for me and accepting that as an 18-year-old kid is very, very hard… Thankfully I was able to talk to my school counselor and college counselor and say, ‘Here is the reality, I don’t know what I need to do to get to college…’ A lot of kids go through that and some of them don’t say anything and they don’t get the help they need.”
“DACA allows children who have grown up in this country and see this country as their own – like myself – to have a legal status. But again, this is not a permanent status, you have to renew it every two years. You are kind of in a limbo. You are not a U.S. resident, but you’re legally allowed to be here, but you’re not allowed to travel outside of the country unless you request a permit. So it’s not like fully being a U.S. citizen. It’s kind of in the middle, in-between, and you always have that in the back of your mind.”
“DACA Time is seeking to create a platform to help people fill out their DACA applications. If you ever had to fill out your taxes by hand, that is kind of what DACA applications are. Most people seek out legal help from a lawyer or professional that has experience… [With DACA Time] the software will do it for you, will walk you through the application and help you print it out especially if you’re doing a renewal. If you’re doing a new application it will guide you whether you need more counseling from a lawyer… We want to simplify that tedious paperwork… I think I would spend over ten hours just reviewing them [the forms] again and again and I’m still not comfortable doing it on my own.”
A Latino in the U.S.:
🎧 Listen (2:38)
“I’ve never gotten asked that question because people just ask you, ‘Where are you from?’ That is the first question I always get. I always say, ‘Well I’m from Queens, I’m from Astoria, I’m from New York.’ That’s where I feel I’m from, but I identify myself as a Latino in the U.S. trying to make it and help my community here and make a change… For Latinos it’s always a struggle. We always have to work twice as hard and we do it and eat delicious food along the way [laughs]… Raising our voices and educating the people around us is very important.”