For Immediate Release

September 5, 2017

The day U.S. Attorney General Sessions announced the end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA—was a dark day for many immigrants in the United States. For Aileen Shepard, it was the culmination of eight years of working toward becoming a U.S. citizen.

Aileen grew up in an impoverished family in the Philippines. With three sisters and four brothers, Aileen struggled to come up with jeepney (bus) fare money to get to and from school. She did not see a future for herself in her home country, so followed a cousin’s lead and applied online to be an Au Pair in Denmark.  

Her arrival in Denmark was anything but smooth. Au Pairs, or nannies, typically live with a host family and help take care of the children. Aileen’s host turned out to be a divorced man without primary custody of his child. Not eager to return home, Aileen stayed on in spite of odd displays of cash and jewels by the man. On her fourth day in the country, Aileen answered the door to find a fleet of police officers bearing drug-detecting canines.

The Denmark police searched the home and took Aileen to their station in Copenhagen, a few hours away. After confiscating her phone (her only connection to anything familiar), they interrogated Aileen for a full day without providing any food or beverage other than black coffee—something she was not accustomed to drinking at the time.

Eventually it was determined that Aileen was not connected to the cocaine ring or various “prostitution clubs” run by her employer, and she was released. Into a foreign country, where she had no immediate employment prospects or connections. She went to stay with her cousin, the only person she knew in Denmark at the time.

The visit turned into another—this time legitimate and even wonderful—Au Pair opportunity for Aileen.

The job lasted a year and a half, during which time she had an extended visit from a Longview man destined to become her husband (someone she met online while still living in the Philippines).

Eventually Aileen received a fiancé visa and traveled to Longview in 2009 to be with her now-husband Jerrad. She yearned to return to college after getting a taste of it in the Philippines, and came to LCC to get started. Aileen took the requisite placement tests and was pleasantly surprised to end up in English 101 and the highest level of developmental math, Math 098/099.

From the very start, Aileen’s experience with LCC was extremely positive. Now in her fifth quarter of LCC’s Nursing Program, Aileen is well on her way to achieving her “American Dream” of being a nurse anesthetist. After graduating from LCC next March, she hopes to continue her nursing education at either Oregon Health Sciences University (OHSU) or Washington State University-Vancouver (WSU-V).

Like other immigrants, Aileen has had to overcome many obstacles since coming to the United States.

English is not her native language, so she has had to rely on her husband and others to help her with grammar and word choice. During her first quarter at LCC, Aileen would wait until the other students were gone to talk to her English instructor. Support from LCC faculty has been a key ingredient in Aileen’s success, and she credits LCC nursing instructors Jacqueline Marr and Merry Bond in particular with helping her along the way.

Aileen has received support and encouragement from the local Filipino community as well. As the first person in her family to be educated in the United States, there was a lot Aileen did not know about college when she started. A naturally outgoing person, Aileen quickly made friends and formed study groups at LCC. Eventually she got a job in the Tutoring Center, where she had an opportunity to help other students with various subjects including Anatomy & Physiology.

In addition to finishing her nursing degree from LCC and taking care of family, Aileen is busy filling out scholarship applications to help fund the next leg of her educational journey. While at LCC, she received three different scholarships that covered most of her expenses—another important ingredient in her personal recipe for success.

Aileen hopes to continue her education to fulfill her own career goals, but she has an underlying motivation as well. She hopes to instill the right values in daughters Jasmine (7) and Caitlyn (5) by working hard and being a good role model.


Aileen Shepard

Aileen Shepard

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 Wendy Hall, Vice President, Effectiveness & College Relations, Lower Columbia College


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