By: Emanuela Leaf
Carolina Bortolleto was born in Brazil and moved to Danbury, CT at the age of nine with her parents and twin sister. She studied at Western Connecticut State University and graduated in 2010 with a BA in Biology and minors in International Studies and Anthropology.
She describes herself as a “science nerd with a passion for politics and social justice” and most importantly, as “Undocumented and Unafraid.” She has been a leader in the undocumented immigrant youth movement nationwide.
In October 2010, she co-founded Connecticut Students for a Dream (C4D), a statewide organization of young adults that works for the rights of undocumented youth and their families. She also serves on the board of United We Dream, the largest immigrant youth-led organization in the nation.
Her American Dream is to continue to empower undocumented immigrant youth to reach their full potential, in a society where immigration status is not a barrier to education.
But Carolina has been at Danbury Hospital since early December 2014. With sudden stomach complications, she had to undergo six major emergency surgeries, was in medically induced coma for 20 days and had a lengthy stay in the ICU.
April 6 marked four months that she has been at the hospital and she will likely continue her stay for more weeks to come as she continues to recover and heal in the care of doctors and surgeons. Due to Carolina’s immigration status, she does not have health insurance, and her medical bills are growing and will be over $100,000.
But she is a fighter, and she has faced her situation the same way she has dealt with adversity in her life, with determination, strength and lots of love and support from her parents, her sister and friends.
“This has been a very difficult time, but the support we have received from the community has been amazing,” said Ana Bortolleto, Carolina’s mother, who since the night she was rushed to the hospital has not left her bed side, adding “She doesn’t have insurance and the medical bills growing fast. We hope she will be out of the hospital soon, but she will need rehab and follow-up care”.
Carolina was a finalist for Tribuna Newspaper’s American Dream Person of the Year Award in 2014, and she has been nominated by her co-workers, family and friends many times this year for the same honor.
Every year, the proceeds of ticket sales of the American Dream Awards are directed to the Western Connecticut Health Network Foundation, to support and advance the programs and services that the network provides to our community through Danbury Hospital and New Milford Hospital.
However, this year, the organizers of the event, in light of Carolina’s extreme circumstances and the excellent care she has been receiving at Danbury hospital, have decided to direct the proceeds of the ticket sales to her Danbury Hospital medical account in an effort to help alleviate the cost of her treatment.
“We are very thankful that the proceeds from the gala will be going towards Carolina’s medical account. The support Carolina has received from the community shows us the impact her work has had in these past years,” Bortolleto stated.
Celia Bacelar, publisher of Tribuna Newspaper, agrees, “Ana Carolina and her sister Camila were pioneers in the undocumented immigrant student movement in our state and in the country. In Connecticut, undocumented immigrants students today are able to pay in-state tuition rates, instead of out-of-state tuition rates, at higher education institutions in part due to their efforts,” said Bacelar, adding, “When we were made aware of Carolina’s health, we wanted to do all we could to support her and her family and [let her know] that her efforts to insure that immigration status is not a barrier to higher education were deeply appreciated.”
The Gala will be held on May 16, 2015, at the Portuguese Cultural Center in Danbury. Tickets are $85.00 and include a $50 donation to Carolina’s Danbury Hospital medical account, live concert, cocktail hour, three-course dinner, soft drinks, coffee service and cash bar. To purchase your ticket, please visit www.tribunaamericandreamawards.com or call (203) 730-0457.