Her parents came to the United States when she was in grade school. “It was very hard being separated from them, particularly my mother,” she said. But when it came time to join her parents in the U.S., when she was 13, Sandra was more than hesitant. “I did not want to go,” she said. “It was so hard to give everything we owned away, to say goodbye to my friends, to leave our home, and to leave our two dogs behind.”
When she boarded a plane with her brother, she was terrified. After she arrived in the United States, Sandra didn’t leave the house for several months. “I was scared even to cross the street – something might happen.”
But slowly she ventured out, making small journeys at first. She went to the nearby grocery store, and started to practice the names of foods. Another milestone was taking the subway. But soon she was riding uptown and downtown just for the fun of it.
School took a little more time. She first went to a Polish school where she felt very comfortable, but felt that she wasn’t learning enough English. She started at the International School in 9th grade.
She began to thrive. “I learned so much, and became much more independent,” she said. She was also able to indulge in her great love – soccer.
Then came the movie. “I never thought I would be in a movie,” she said. “I didn’t think that much about it after a while. I would forget that I had the microphone on and that they were filming.” And after seeing herself in some footage, “I thought about it and I realized that I wanted to be heard and that I wanted others to see what we immigrants go through,” she said.
As with Brandon, the directors of I LEARN AMERICA – Jean Michel Dissard and Gitte Peng – contacted KIND and asked if it could help Sandra. KIND matched Sandra with a pro bono attorney at Nixon Peabody. “Tushna [Gamadia] made me feel very comfortable with the process and everything,” Sandra said. “I knew I could call her when I needed.”