SANTA ANA, Calif. (KABC) --Blanca Morales celebrated a major step in her journey toward becoming a doctor. The Santa Ana resident was recently accepted to Harvard medical school.
It's a journey that started when her family moved from Mexico to the U.S. when she was 5 years old.
"Believing that I could eventually become a doctor, even though I didn't know how it would happen," Morales said.
With the support and encouragement of her family, she graduated valedictorian from Santa Ana High School, and with honors from the University California, Irvine.
Her undocumented status made her ineligible for federal student loans.
"You struggle so much to get your degree, to go through your education, but what happens after that, how can you use your education?" Morales questioned.
Without citizenship, Blanca couldn't apply to work in the medical field. While working at Mary Kay, she joined Health Scholars, a program started by Dr. Marco Angulo to train students to help underserved communities.
"She epitomizes the Health Scholars program," Angelo stated. "She epitomizes the community. And it's so personal to her, you can tell."
Now, Harvard offered Blanca financial aid to cover the cost of tuition.
Blanca is allowed to work and school because of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. The immigration policy made her eligible for a renewable two-year work permit.
Blanca and her husband were working to get her a green card. Regardless, she hoped to finish school and come back to serve Santa Ana.
"Gave me so much in terms of education and encouragement and education and opportunities," Morales said. "I want to return some of that."