'It feels great to feel visible and loved by all of you.'
18-year-old Gaspar Marcos spends his day at school, puts in eight hours of work after that, and then tries to fit in at least three hours of sleep before doing it all over again.
Gaspar is a sophomore at Belmont High School in Los Angeles. He also works full-time as a dishwasher in the evenings and pays $600 a month for a room he rents from a family. His struggles are very real.
Gaspar is from Guatemala — one of at least 100,000 kids who came to the U.S. from Central America in the past five years as a result of a raging and increasingly violent drug war between cartels and police.
Many have made the dangerous trek alone, leaving their parents behind. Gaspar was one of those children, having lost both his parents when he was 5; he made his way to the U.S. at 13.
The Los Angeles Times spent 19 hours with Gaspar to tell his story. The video they created has been viewed over 10 million times so far on Facebook.
The reaction to Gaspar's story was fast and powerful. Immediately after the L.A. Times shared the video of his story on its Facebook page, people rushed to offer him a place to stay and monetary contributions.
The L.A. Times was quick to recognize the outpouring of support.
Federico Bustamante, a program administrator for Casa Libre, a shelter for undocumented youth in L.A., set up a GoFundMe page to help Gaspar.
The money will help cover his everyday expenses as well as go toward college tuition. Federico said that he's been a guardian, mentor, teacher, big brother, and friend to Gaspar and other undocumented students. He jokes that he's also Gaspar's agent given his sudden internet fame and the subsequent outpouring of support.
The We Stand With Gaspar campaign has raised nearly $19,000 from over 400 people as of July 27, 2016. Gaspar was so overwhelmed by the kindness of strangers that he recorded the video message below saying it's great to feel loved and visible in this world.
Not only is Gaspar undeterred in his quest to work hard to get ahead, but he's also incredibly selfless. In his thank you video, he said that he understands it's not just about him, but about young people like him facing the same situation. That's why he's donating 50% of the donations made to his GoFundMe page to help some of his undocumented classmates and other immigrant teens at Casa Libre so that they, too, can have more free time for schoolwork.
Federico said about the campaign, "We have become of vital importance to our immigrant community and the refugee boys we've helped to house and empower, like Gaspar ... so you can understand that Gaspar and the rest of my students inspire me to heights far beyond GoFundMe."
Gaspar's story puts a real face to a real issue.
Many undocumented people like Gaspar are determined individuals looking to better their situation by working hard and educating themselves in order to thrive. It's challenging for them to do it on their own, especially when they are teens. But thanks to loving members of the community and the kindness of people on the internet, Gaspar is able to attain a slice of the American Dream.
If you want to help Gaspar and fellow undocumented youth, consider donating to his GoFundMe page.