IB graduate Kathia Rivas arrived in the United States from Mexico in May of 2015. She chose to enroll at Nikki Rowe High School in McAllen ISD and in IB’s Diploma Programme. In addition to the IB program’s rigorous coursework, Rivas had some catching up to do.

“Since my credits from Mexico were not considered equivalent to the courses in the U.S.,” Rivas wrote, “I had to earn them by Credit by Exam. I think I took about eight exams. Also, I had to take a freshman class my junior year. I was able to do it because I was determined to graduate with my class, and I wanted to prove that I was prepared to be in a U.S. high school.”

Prove it she did, and Rivas caught up with her IB classmates. But her plans of graduating with her class were nearly thwarted when she was forced to return to Mexico within weeks of graduation when the renewal of her father’s work visa was denied by the U.S. consulate.

“Fortunately, my mother and I had another type of visa that allowed us to return to the U.S. temporarily,” Rivas wrote. Her sister, also an IB student, wasn’t so fortunate, so she had to return to Mexico during spring break. Rivas shared the difficulty of dealing with some people’s opinions and attitudes about those, like her and her family, who have chosen America as their new home.

“Some might think I am happy that I had to come back to Mexico because I love Mexico,” she wrote. “Also, some think that what I am going through is what immigrants deserve, that we have to fight to be in the U.S. because they are doing us a favor letting us live there. Well, I do love Mexico, and I do think you have to fight for what you want.” Rivas’ love for Mexico does not minimize her love for America and the opportunities for her here. And her fight for the documentation she needs to live here should not include being humiliated, frightened, and insulted, especially by government officials.

While back in the States, Rivas and her mother had to set up an interview for their new visas. The interview, she explained, consists of two appointments—in Mexico. The first was scheduled the weekend before the mandatory IB exams started, which meant she had no choice but to leave. (From the MISD IB website: All courses are assessed in May with IB examinations (papers): the HLs (higher level, two-year courses) in May of the senior year and the SLs (standard level, one-year courses) in May of either the junior or senior year—depending on when the SL class is taken. These papers consist of two to three exams students “sit” for in May. All May papers are graded by examiners in various locations throughout the world.)

Rivas had mixed emotions about returning to Mexico. On the one hand, she felt excited about the opportunity to see her father and her sister for the first time in over a month. But after the first week, she felt saddened about not hearing from more of her friends here. Instead of allowing that to make her miserable, though, Rivas decided to learn from the experience.

She also learned the importance of caring educators and the significance of an international diploma, even in trying times. Marissa Sarabando, McAllen ISD IB coordinator, contacted the IB organization and an IB school in Mexico City to arrange for the transfer of Rivas’ exams. Thankfully, the transfer was approved, and she was able to take the IB exams at Colegio Nuevo Continente in Mexico City.

Rivas has returned to the U.S. for the IB Pinning Ceremony and Rowe’s graduation. She will attend Texas A & M University in College Station, where she will major in applied mathematical sciences with a concentration in actuarial sciences.

It is her father, her mother, and her sister who inspire Rivas.

“My father has moved mountains for my sister and me,” she wrote, “and I admire his persistence and dedication. It is incredible the amount of work he has had and the stress he has gone through. He inspires me to be strong and to prove to whoever thinks I am not capable that I can do the impossible. My mother has gone through a lot, too, and even though her family has been physically and emotionally separated, she tries to keep the family together. My sister, I think, has been the most affected of all because she was never able to return to the U.S. and will remain in Mexico for another couple of weeks until the consulate decides to give us the new visa. She has lost school, dance classes, recitals, friends, a piano contest, and more, but she remains hopeful and apparently happy.”

Rivas will proudly accept her IB pin and her Rowe diploma this week, knowing her passion for education, for freedom, and for her family burn brighter than her fears.