Update on Undocumented Student Who Crocheted to Pay for College

Back in 2012 I shared a small news report about a college student named Jose Luis Zelaya. As an undocumented immigrant in the United States he did not qualify for funding for higher education so he had to find a way to put himself through college. Crochet helped. He started making and selling affordable crochet accessories, particularly hats called DREAM Beanies, to raise funds to support himself. That article was almost 5 years ago so I wanted to check in on him (online) and find out how he’s doing. It looks like he’s really been successful in his education and is now working hard to encourage education as a path for others.

At the time of the original writing, I shared:

Zelaya was interested in crochet as soon as he first saw it. A woman on the street was crocheting and he told her that he wanted to learn. Unfortunately, she actually turned him down because she felt that crocheting was a girl’s craft. He was persistent in learning though, and has been crocheting for over a decade. He is studying at Texas A&M University where he is in a graduate program for English as a Second Language. He is the first in his family to get into graduate school.

Jose’s original Etsy shop is no longer active so I headed over to Facebook to see what he’s been up to. His stated mission there is:

Through his academic research and speaking engagements, Jose Luis Zelaya – Ph.D. student and higher education advocate – has made it his mission to empower people to become the best they can through continuous learning. His mission is to inspire, educate and engage his audiences by providing educational resources, and motivation to students, parents and school staff.

The page has a thorough bio that explains his personal history and how he came to care so much about education. It says in part,

I believe that students must understand the responsibility of their education and teachers should be able to understand the lived experiences of English Language Learners and New Arrivals such as Unaccompanied Migrant Children. I am passionate about generating ideas and inspiring students to pursue higher education.

In 2016 he shared:

In another post last year he wrote,

When I was 11 years old, I learned how to crochet in Honduras to support my family and in the U.S. it helped me pay for my Master’s college degree. When we have a desired to succeed academically, we can use our creativity to make it happen!

In a 2015 post he shared,

Crocheting is beyond a Hobby for me; It’s therapy, medicine, stress-relief, healing … it is Magic. Crocheting for is beyond the imaginable, it is a bridge that unites my Educational Dreams with my Reality! Good morning friends, keep calm and crochet on!

And finally, one more from early last year:

Thanks to #crocheting I am now a Doctoral student and I am forever grateful to everyone who supported me throughout my journey.

Kathryn

San Francisco based and crochet-obsessed writer, dreamer and creative spirit!

2 Comments:

  1. Wow, thank you for sharing this inspirational story!

  2. Extremely Inspiring!! I got very emotional while reading his story on How crochet helped him to succeed. I also like his Quote on how for him crochet is more than a hobby, “It’s therapy, medicine, stress-relief, healing … it is Magic”. Beautiful story, Thank you Kathryn for sharing it!!

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