Marcko Burrola came to the United States at the age of 5 and spent most of his life so far undocumented, receiving his Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) permit as a sophomore at Sunnyside High School, a Title I school on the southside of Tucson.
His parents were always supportive of his education goals, saying they moved to the U.S. for Marcko and his siblings to have more opportunities and receive a better education.
As a DACA student, Marcko was unable to receive a Pell Grant or any form of financial aid. Because of this, he decided to start his postsecondary journey at Pima Community College (PCC) to reduce tuition rates.
In his second, and final, year at PCC, Marcko’s mom attained legal status, meaning he also attained his citizenship. This opened him up to being eligible for financial aid provided through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and scholarship opportunities.
He says the transition from his predominately Latino high school to PCC was relatively easy because of the diversity of the school and the support systems the college provided. However, the transition to the University of Arizona (UArizona) was more difficult.
According to Marcko, he felt like a number because the school was bigger and less diverse. It was also hard to make new friends because he was entering as a junior. He also entered studying criminal justice and Spanish translation but had doubts that’s what he wanted to pursue and received negative advice from advisers at 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,” he said. “I reached out and I didn’t get the answers 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.”
Once he began working with his Success Advisers, Barbra Scrivner and Matthew Sotelo, he felt that he now had professionals who understood and supported him. He also attended Scholar Success Network events hosted by the organization, through which he was able to make friends who were going through similar struggles and journeys in their college experience.
“Being able to explain how I felt was a whole new world,” he said. “Barbra listened and understood what I was feeling. She had felt the same way. She said go for it and go out of comfort zone.”
Marcko just graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from UArizona’s Eller College of Management in the spring 2021. At first, he wasn’t sure he belonged in the state’s top business school, but his adviser soothed those doubts.
“Having a mentor has been important because it’s a way for me to get out what I have bottled in. It’s a safe haven,” he said. “I am more than a student and my mentor is more than a mentor. We can both help each other. My adviser reminded me to work hard, but also give myself a break and recognize my hard work and success. There were things I didn’t know were worthy of being proud of or celebrating.”
Thanks to the support from Education Forward Arizona, Marcko said he realized he could break the barriers in his way. He now wants to motivate other diverse students to follow their dreams and not be inhibited by the barriers of the system.
“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.”