Stella Linardi knows what some people may think of her. As an undocumented immigrant, she says she often finds herself trying to prove her worth.
“I think a lot of people see immigrants as more of a burden that the nation has to compensate for,” Stella said. “But a lot of students like me, we all just want to go to college. We all just want to do something with our lives and give back. It’s just really hard in this climate to not know whether you’re wanted or not.”
Born in Indonesia, Stella and her family immigrated to the United States when she was just 3 years old.
“They came to America to do what was right by their kids and their families to create something better,” Whitney High Assistant Principal RoseEllen Shea said. “And for all those years even being here, it was scary for her to be here. It was scary for her to put herself out.”
Stella and her family spent the next decade trying to save up enough money in hopes that one day, Stella could call herself a United States citizen. She received temporarily relief in 2016 when she became a DACA recipient.
“My family was so happy because now this was a form of protection for me from deportation,” Stella said.
Stella could have only cared about her own status. But she was content to become a voice for some of the undocumented immigrants in this country too fearful to speak for themselves.
“I don’t think it’s something you can plan as much as it is a calling,” Shea said. “And I think she has that calling and I think she’s answering it. She always goes beyond herself. She’s looking to change generations. And to be honest with you, that’s what our country needs. And she’s willing to go there.”
Her work outside the classroom is nothing short of exemplary. She served as co-president of the California Scholarship Federation and Future Business Leaders of America while at Whitney High.
“I’ve worked with a lot of really incredible, impactful students,” Whitney High counselor Alyssa Skipper said. “Never anyone like her. And I don’t know that I’ll ever even get a chance to encounter another student like that who so truly cares about other human beings.”
This fall, she began her freshman year at Cornell University, a prestigious Ivy League school.
“Knowing that Cornell is such an advocate and a voice for people like me, that really comforted me,” Stella said.
The future of DACA is still unknown. That means so is Stella’s future in this country. It’s a sobering reality given the impact she’s made on so many people. In the meantime, she’ll continue to do what she’s done so well: change minds and change lives.
“When we see our students like Stella, we’re in an interesting time right now in this country,” Whitney High Principal John Briquelet said. “And I think people worry and wonder what the generation coming up is going to be like. And I can tell you, with young people like Stella coming up, we’re going to be just fine.”