Uprooting your life to move to another country is imaginably difficult for a 17-year-old from San Luis Potosi, Mexico, and yet, for Victor Acosta, a University of Central Oklahoma alumnus, this became his reality.
On his 17th birthday, Acosta moved from Mexico to the United States with his family, in the hope of finding a better life. But as he began looking for universities, after graduating from Santa Fe South Charter High School in Oklahoma City, he quickly realized the hard path he had ahead of him. Acosta was not eligible for financial aid or state help, so paying for college would fall solely on his shoulders.
“Unfortunately, I didn’t get the financial support from the [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)] program, so I was going to have to pay for college on my own,” Acosta said. “I had to pay for my schooling through scholarships, like Oklahoma’s Promise, because my parents didn’t have the resources to pay for it. It was going to be a difficult challenge, but I was determined to get an education. I was the first member of my entire family to graduate from high school, so going to college was very important to me.”
Acosta researched a variety of universities before deciding on UCO. He felt at home when he toured the campus, and after discovering the graphic design program in Central’s College of Fine Arts and Design, he was sold and never looked back. It was a difficult road, but with the support of UCO faculty, his family and his friends, Acosta graduated in 2014 with a bachelor’s degree.
“Going through college was difficult for me. I didn’t have a Mac computer like everyone else, I didn’t have the latest and greatest technology, and the language barrier made it tough to do presentations,” Acosta said.
“I maybe knew 15 percent of the English language at the time, so I was really self-conscious and nervous when I had to do my first graphic design presentation. But Amy Johnson, my professor, let me do the presentation completely in Spanish the first time, and since then, she has always supported me. She was a tough professor, but she always supported her students and helped me to grow in every class.”
Acosta has won several regional and national awards, including an ADDY in 2012, specifically for his work with paper as a medium. He earned the nickname “The Paper Master” during his time as a design student. He utilized paper as his main project material and brought his designs to life in a physical space. More recently, Acosta was named one of the 2017 NextGen Under 30 leaders and achievers in Oklahoma for his work in the arts and received the Outstanding Human Rights Achievement from the Oklahoma Universal Human Rights Alliance for his activism on behalf of human rights.
Acosta currently works for the El Nacional newspaper in Oklahoma City and plans to go back to college for his master’s degree in the near future. He works on projects for community organizations, like the Global Experiences Foundation, and teaches basic computer skills for the Integris Learning Center. He also plans to create his own foundation for international students, providing both emotional and financial support.
“I wasn’t able to participate in the DACA program myself, but I still consider myself a ‘Dreamer,’” Acosta said. “Even though I had financial struggles and language barrier struggles, those struggles made me stronger. I want to be an inspiration to both DACA and non-DACA students – that they can make it through the hard times, and I am here to support them. Take advantage of the opportunities you are given and surround yourself with support.”