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Courtland High student excels, but her parents live 1,800 miles away; Michelle Gomez wishes her mom could see her graduate
Date published: 5/25/2012
BY AMY FLOWERS UMBLE
In her first year at Courtland High School, Michelle Gomez has made her mark: earning the art student of the month title, tutoring Hispanic students and winning the hearts of the faculty.
"In less than eight months, she's become a Courtland Cougar," said guidance counselor Jackie Macklin. "She's done very well, and she's a favorite among the senior teachers and in guidance. We have adopted her."
Next week, Michelle will graduate with a 4.25 grade-point average, putting her near the top of her class at the Spotsylvania County school.
And she's earned these honors while living some 1,800 miles away from her parents.
The 18-year-old senior has worked hard balancing life on her own with her studies. For years, she worked diligently preparing for graduation.
But as June 2 approaches, Michelle isn't excited about donning a cap and gown.
"I don't want to walk across the stage and see all the mothers there and not see mine," she said.
For three years, Michelle has lived apart from her parents, enduring the loneliness for the promise of a high school diploma--the key to a future she hopes includes college and a career as a physical therapist.
But in her final weeks, Michelle's mind is not on her diploma; she can't stop thinking about her mother in Honduras.
Michelle has worked to clear the path for her mom to attend her graduation. But unlike the academic distinctions she's attained, a travel visa has remained elusive.
Michelle was born in Texas and is an American citizen, but her parents are not. They both live in Honduras. Her father was able to secure a visa and is visiting Michelle now.
But Michelle is especially close to her mother and can't picture graduation day without her.
When her mother was denied a visa, Michelle started a letter-writing campaign--contacting 1st District Rep. Rob Wittman and U.S. senators Mark Warner and Jim Webb. She even wrote to President Barack Obama and Ellen DeGeneres. So far, no one has been able to help.
To Obama, she wrote: "Can you imagine being away from your daughter's graduation, not being able to share in one of the greatest moments of her life?"
In reply, she got a form letter about immigration reform.