The 9 teachers who just received awards from the White House were all in the U.S. illegally.

Jaime Ballesteros first realized just how much his immigration status mattered when he started looking at colleges.

He didn't have a Social Security number — and without that, he wouldn't be able to apply for schools alongside his peers, who were considering colleges like Harvard and Yale.

He knew what was wrong. Born in the Philippines, Jaime came to the U.S. with his parents and older brother when he was 11 years old. His father had a temporary work visa tied to his job as an accountant, which allowed him to bring his wife and children with him.



Jaime at roughly age 6 in Bacolod City, where his family lived in the Philippines. Photo courtesy of Jaime Ballesteros.

Then the recession hit. Jaime's father lost his job in 2007, which meant their visas would expire.

His family went from living the American Dream to immigration fugitives in the course of a year.

The timing couldn't have been worse, either. Jaime was looking at colleges and didn't know how to handle questions about citizenship and legal residency. He turned to one of the few people he thought he could trust, Ms. Solberg, his English teacher.

“She was the first person I came out to as an undocumented person," he told Upworthy. “I was very afraid of putting my family in harm's way."

During his time at Drew University, in December 2011. Photo courtesy of Jaime Ballesteros.

She helped him apply to college, a decision that set him on the path for success. The biggest impediment was money — as an undocumented immigrant, he wasn't eligible for federal financial aid and loans. But after struggling through several applications, he connected with an admissions counselor at Drew University, a liberal arts college in New Jersey. The school was able to offer enough in scholarships to cover his tuition.

He also got a boost from a new immigration policy rolled out in 2012, during his junior year at Drew. The Obama administration announced a program that would allow young undocumented immigrants like him to live and work in the U.S. legally. He applied and was approved.

But he never forgot the support he received from Ms. Solberg.

When Jaime graduated college, he joined Teach for America. Now he's a high school chemistry teacher in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles.

At the Ánimo College Preparatory Academy, where he teaches chemistry. Photo courtesy of Jaime Ballesteros.

On the first day of class, he told his students — many of them immigrants, as well — that he was undocumented. “I want them to be comfortable approaching me," he said.

Stories like Jaime's are becoming more and more common.

The program that gave Jaime a pathway to become a teacher — Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) — has allowed more than 664,000 people to work legally in the U.S.

Teachers make up a portion of those newly employed young people, a fact recognized by the White House last week when it handed out Champions of Change awards to nine young teachers, all of whom have work authorization through DACA.

The nine teachers awarded Champions of Change awards by the White House. Photo courtesy of The White House.

The awards typically go to innovative American workers across the spectrum. This time around, all of the recipients were people who either overstayed a visa or entered the country illegally.

Now they're able to live in the U.S. without fear of imminent deportation.

Congrats to Jaime and the eight other educators honored by the White House this week:

1. Kasfia Islam, who moved from Bangladesh to a small town in Texas with her parents at age 6.

Photo courtesy of Kasfia Islam.

As a pre-kindergarten teacher, she said she's careful to watch for students who are learning English and might not understand.

[The students] want to communicate so badly with you, but they don't have the means to do it, so it can be frustrating for them," she said.

2. Marissa Molina, who came to the U.S. from the Mexican state of Chihuahua when she was 9 years old.

Photo courtesy of Marissa Molina.

After years of hiding her immigration status, Molina feels validated to be able to accept an award from the White House and speak publicly about her situation — for herself and others like her.

“I feel really overwhelmed with emotion," she said about the award. "For many years, I was made to believe that people like me didn't belong in these spaces."

3. Luis Juarez Trevino, whose family brought him to Texas as a child, seeking a better life.

Photo courtesy of Luis Juarez Trevino.

As an immigrant student without much money, Trevino saw college and a professional career as a long shot. “The odds were against me," he said in an email.

“Teachers truly took the time to motivate me, care for my wellbeing, and push me outside of my comfort zone."

4. David Liendo Uriona, who came to the U.S. from Bolivia for a karate tournament and never returned.

Photo courtesy of David Liendo Uriona.

Uriona didn't think college would be an option for him, since he had been living in the U.S. without legal status since he was 14.

“When I was in high school, I felt dejected as result of my lack of documentation," he said. “I know from firsthand experience that there are many students that felt like me in high school, and teaching them that their dreams can come true is one of my biggest motivations."

5. Maria Dominguez, who came to the U.S. when she was 9, after her father — who was living in Texas as a legal resident — passed away in a car accident.

Photo courtesy of Maria Dominguez.

Dominguez said her mother didn't intend to keep the family in Texas after her father's death, but that Austin soon became their home and they joined the estimated 1.5 million undocumented immigrants in the state.

“The Champions of Change Award is allowing me to represent my community, a community that has a voice and a face but that chooses to live in the shadows because they are afraid to share their stories," she told Upworthy.

6. Yara Hidalgo, whose family brought her to California as a 1-year-old from Nayarit, a state in Western Mexico.

Photo courtesy of Yara Hidalgo.

Hidalgo knew from a young age that she wanted to be a teacher, but her experience as an undocumented high schooler — fearing deportation and unsure of her future — steeled her resolve.

"I believe that through education we can promote and be catalysts of progressive change," she said. "Some of our systems are broken and we need to fix them."

7. Rosario Quiroz Villarreal, whose mother brought her from the border state of Coahuila, Mexico, to Oakland, California, at age 7 so they could reunite with her father.

Photo courtesy of Rosario Quiroz Villarreal.

Throughout her life, educators supported her following her professional dreams. She wants to pay that back by guiding others in the same way.

“Growing up undocumented was challenging, given the times I've been rejected because of the lack of a Social Security number," she said. “This validates years of efforts and tells me my work matters."

8. Dinorah Flores Perez, who was 5 years old when her parents brought her from Mexico to the U.S.

Photo courtesy of The White House.

Flores Perez said she "detested" school as a child and chose her profession to make things better for other students.

"I remember feeling invisible, afraid, and insecure in my academic abilities," she said. "I seek to be a different teacher and see my students' limitations as a catapult to change their realities."

These teachers are just a few examples of how much a work permit matters to someone who is in the country without legal status but wants to contribute to their community.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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When "bobcat" trended on Twitter this week, no one anticipated the unreal series of events they were about to witness. The bizarre bobcat encounter was captured on a security cam video and...well...you just have to see it. (Read the following description if you want to be prepared, or skip down to the video if you want to be surprised. I promise, it's a wild ride either way.)

In a North Carolina neighborhood that looks like a present-day Pleasantville, a man carries a cup of coffee and a plate of brownies out to his car. "Good mornin!" he calls cheerfully to a neighbor jogging by. As he sets his coffee cup on the hood of the car, he says, "I need to wash my car." Well, shucks. His wife enters the camera frame on the other side of the car.

So far, it's just about the most classic modern Americana scene imaginable. And then...

A horrifying "rrrrawwwww!" Blood-curdling screaming. Running. Panic. The man abandons the brownies, races to his wife's side of the car, then emerges with an animal in his hands. He holds the creature up like Rafiki holding up Simba, then yells in its face, "Oh my god! It's a bobcat! Oh my god!"

Then he hucks the bobcat across the yard with all his might.

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2020 was difficult (to say the least). The year was full of life changes, losses, and lessons as we learned to navigate the "new normal." You may have questions about what the changes and challenges of 2020 mean for your taxes. That's where TurboTax Live comes in, making it easy to connect with real tax experts to help with your taxes – or even do them for you, start to finish.

Not only has TurboTax Live helped millions of people get their taxes done right, but this year they've also celebrated people who uplifted their communities during a difficult time by surprising them with "little lifts" to help out even more.

Here are a few of their stories:


Julz, hairdresser and salon owner

"As a hairdresser and salon owner, 2020 was extremely challenging," says Julz. "Being a hairdresser has historically been a recession-proof industry, but we've never faced global shut down due to health risk, or pandemic, not in my lifetime. And for the first time, hairdressers didn't have job security."

Julz had to shut down her salon and go on unemployment benefits for the first time. She also had to figure out how she was going to support herself, her staff and her business during this difficult time. But many other beauty industry professionals didn't have access to the resources they needed, so Julz decided to help.

"My business partner and I began teaching basic financial literacy to other beauty industry professionals," she says. "Transitioning our business from behind the chair to an online academy was a challenge we tackled head-on so that we could move hairdressers into this new space of education, and create a more accessible curriculum to better serve our industry.

Julz connected with a TurboTax Live expert who helped her understand how unemployment affected her taxes and gave her guidance on filing quarterly estimated taxes for her small business. "I was terrified to sit at a computer and tackle this mess of receipts," Julz says, so "it was great to have some virtual handholding to walk me through each question."

In addition to giving Julz the personalized tax advice she needed, TurboTax Live surprised her with a "little lift" that empowered her to help even more beauty professionals. "When my tax expert Diana surprised me with a little lift, I was moved to tears," says Julz. "With that little lift, I was able to establish a scholarship fund to help get other hairdressers the education they deserve."


Alana, new mom

Alana welcomed her first child in 2020. "I think my biggest challenge was figuring out how to be a mom, with no guidance," she says. "My original plan was to have my mom by my side, teaching me the ropes, but because of COVID, she wasn't able to come out here."

She was also without a job for most of 2020 and struggled to find something new.

So, Alana took it as a sign: she decided to launch her own business so she could support her new baby, and that's exactly what she did. She started a feel-good company that specializes in creating affirmation card decks — and she's currently in the process of starting a second, video-editing business.

TurboTax Live answered Alana's questions about her taxes and gave her some much-needed advice as she prepared to launch her businesses. Thanks to their "little lift," they provided her with a little emotional support too.

"I got my mom a plane ticket to finally [have her] meet [my daughter] for her first birthday," Alana says. "I was also able to get a new computer," which helped her invest in her new business and work on her video editing skills. "It's helped my family and me so much," she says.


Michael, science teacher

When schools shut down across the country last year, Michael had to learn how to adapt to a virtual classroom.

"As a teacher, I had to completely revamp everything," he says, so that he could keep his students engaged while teaching online. "At the beginning, it was a nightmare because I had no idea. I had to go from A-Z within a couple of weeks."

Michael's TurboTax Live expert answered his questions about how working from home affected his taxes and helped him uncover surprising tax deductions. To top it all off, his expert surprised him with brand new science equipment and supplies, which allowed him to create an entire line of classes on YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook. "Now I can truly potentially reach millions of children with my lessons," he says. "I would never have taken that leap if not for the little lift from TurboTax Live."



Ricky, motivational youth speaker

As a motivational speaker, Ricky was used to doing his job in person, but, he says, "when COVID-19 hit, it altered my ability to travel and visit schools in person [because] schools moved to fully virtual or hybrid models."

He knew he had to pivot — so he began offering small virtual group workshops for student leadership groups at middle and high schools.

"This allowed me to work with student leaders to plan how they would continue making a positive impact on their school community," he says. He wasn't sure how being remote would affect his taxes, but TurboTax Live Self-Employed gave him the advice and answers that he needed to keep more money in his pocket at tax time — and the little lift he received from them has helped him serve even more students.

"[It] has been a major blessing," he says "There will be multiple schools and student groups from across the country that I can hold leadership workshops with to empower them with the tools to be inspirational leaders in their school, community, and world."

Plus, he says, it was great knowing he had an expert to help him figure out how being remote affected his taxes. "I felt confident and assured in the process of filing my taxes knowing I had an expert working with me, says Ricky. "There were things my expert knew that I would not have considered when filing on my own."

Filing your taxes doesn't have to be intimidating, especially after a year like 2020. TurboTax Live experts can give you the "little lift" you need to get your taxes done. File with the help of an expert or let an expert file for you! Go to TurboTax Live to get started.