BAKERSFIELD, Calif. - Students around Kern County are getting a chance to learn more about immigration reform.
A recent essay contest is helping shed a light on the issue.
“Why should we look down upon anyone who wants to contribute to our nation in a positive way?” said Gabriela Forter, senior at Centennial High School.
Forter is reading over her winning essay on immigration.
"At first, I was nervous because the question said state your opinion. I was like nervous and wondering what if they don't agree with my opinion. I was just thinking as long as I express it and support it, then it's the best way to handle it," she said.
Forter spends her spare time reading, catching up and debating over recent proposals for reform.
"I think you have to make comprises to make anything happen," said Forter.
Students shared similar views as they expressed their thoughts for a community contest that explores just how they feel about the issue.
"They have all come to accomplish the American dream and they complete business and they also brought culture and diversity into America," said Brittany Perez, senior at Independence High School.
Students began their research at their respected schools and they also found useful information online and right at home.
“I pray for God for an immigration reform bill,” said Edward Reyes, senior at Foothill High School.
Reyes knows first-hand how immigration impacts a family.
“My mother is an immigrant and we're hoping with new immigration reform, she'll be able to work and visit Mexico and see our family that we haven't seen in years," he said.
Reyes is the first in his family to attend college and knows just how complicated immigration has become.
“I think it's a heated topic because there are a lot of opinions. The country is very polarized, politically,” he said.
He says new reform will bring more opportunity, but knows that it will take some time.
“We need a fair and bipartisan immigration reform bill, it’s the only way we can get any resolution to this issue that affects millions of people including my own family,” said Reyes.
Winners are taking home a $1500 scholarship. Two of the essay winners plan on attending UCLA in the fall, the third is heading to California State University Bakersfield.
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