Danubia Campos dreams big. A law degree, or maybe one in international relations. Possibly a career with the United Nations or even one as a Supreme Court Justice.

She's swallowed the American dream whole, this young Brazilian immigrant. When she talks about her future, she assumes boundless options and enumerates them with artless enthusiasm. There are times when it's like talking to Pollyanna with a Portuguese accent.

But hold the cynicism. Consider her past, how long and how tightly she has held her hopes and look at how far she's come already.

Over coffee in Vineyard Haven recently, she recalled her childhood in Brazil, when cousins who had already made the move to the United States came back to visit, bringing with them the bounty of the consumer culture.

"From the time I was three, four, five years old, I thought of America as Toyland," she said.

The contrast with her own life was stark: her mother barely made ends meet, working as a seamstress.

Tearfully, Ms. Campos remembered one day when she was about six, asking her mother for an apple and being told there would be no money to buy one until a client came to pick up some clothes the following day.

"I said, what time tomorrow? Six o'clock. So I went to school that day, went to school the next day, came home, changed and went out on the corner for a half-hour or more until Barbara [the client] came."

Later, she won a scholarship to learn English, "but I never attended because I couldn't afford transportation to where the classes were held."

So when she finally made it to America with her mother in February 1995, one month shy of her 14th birthday, she came with boundless expectations and little else save a small support network of friends and family from her home town, and a powerful work ethic.

First they tried Boston, but it was too big. The Vineyard was a much better fit for immigrants from a small town, Unai, in Mina Gerais state. But unlike most Brazilians on the Island - about 75 per cent of whom, by her estimation, come from two towns, Mantenopolis, in Espirito Santo, and Cuparaque, in Minas Gerais - they knew few people here.

The Vineyard is where she has been since, but for an 18-month period from the end of 1995, when she and her mother moved to Lowell because they could not find affordable housing here.

She is different in several ways from most Brazilians on the Island, beginning with the fact that she sees the Island as a home for life, a place to retire to even if career takes her temporarily elsewhere.

"Most of them just come here to work," she said. "They have kids and families over there. They come in as visitors and overstay, or come through Mexico. And at any time they could get caught and be deported, so they've got to work as much as they can now and limit their quality of living so they can send the money back."

She is different, too, because she is here legally. She can laugh at the immigration scares that periodically grip the bulk of the Brazilian community.

"One time not so long ago some people saw the building inspector's truck over at the Oak Bluffs town hall, with a green symbol on it like immigration. People were hiding in the woods," she said.

But while the false alarms can be funny, the reality of the fear of immigration raids in the lives of most Brazilians is not, and Ms. Campos has only sympathy for the illegals.

"Recently two of my friends were deported. I knew they weren't doing anything bad here. They were just trying to work.

"I know people say they shouldn't be here to begin with, but that's such a selfish view.

"Would you really put yourself in a Buick and come from Cuba? Or in a little raft. How desperate, how horrible can your life be? But people don't see it that way, they see it as invading America. How selfish; there's a lot more involved," she said.

"I sometimes wish American immigration could just say, ‘Let me see your heart, if it's American. If you do, I'll give you your papers.'

"Your mother nation is not where you are born. It's the nation that embraces you, where you have the opportunity. If I had never left, I would probably be married, have kids, not have gone to college, not have planned any of the things I'm planning right now.

"[In Brazil] I had a feeling like I was a little, caged bird."

Another way in which she is different from most Brazilian immigrants is that she came here young.

"There have been Brazilians here for a long time, but not school-age Brazilians. When I got here there were two Brazilians in the Tisbury school and one girl in the Edgartown school. I graduated from the high school in 1999, part of only the second graduating class that had Brazilians in it. The first was 1998."

She graduated an honors student from Cape Cod Community College this spring, and is now assessing university options.

Ms. Campos recalled that she was just "thrown in with the Americans in school" with a couple of her cousins, forcing them to learn the language.

"I remember getting so angry. Like, I'm never going to learn this language. Never. Don't insist, I speak Portuguese. I was born this way. I'm never going to learn English."

She did, but it was tough, and she recalled feeling isolated for a long time.

"I thought that nobody knew me. I remember it was the end of 1998, the winter ball, before I realized people even knew who I was."

It was a moment of epiphany. "I was secluding myself - they would be friends, but we didn't allow them to be.

"That's when I realized, wow, Americans are actually receptive. They're never going to know you if you don't give them a chance, if you just walk around with your head down."

Too many of the Brazilian community, she said, make that mistake. And from the time of that sudden understanding, she set herself to become what she calls a door-opener.

"I've always opened up little doors. I was the first person to work at Stop & Shop, in the office. The first Brazilian at Cronig's, at Reliable Market, at the Martha's Vineyard Insurance agency - where I saw there was a need for someone who spoke Portuguese.

"I open a little door, I step back, others go through," she said.

Like most Brazilians - and many other Islanders - she has almost always worked multiple jobs, ranging from a candy store to a dentist center, various restaurants, an attorney's office, a rental car outfit.

"I usually work two, three jobs, sometimes four," she said. "In the summertime when I have a day off I don't know what to do with myself."

Most notably, she has set herself up as an organizer of Brazilian events on the Island, a job which started more or less by accident in the winter of 2004.

"I had a friend who did it for the Lampost, but she was getting married. When I said ‘Ruby, we need a party, it's wintertime, I'm going crazy' - she was too busy, so she passed it on to me.

"I was just going to school and only had one job then, so I had time."

Many others have followed that first gig at the Atlantic Connection.

"I was the first one to bring a Brazilian act to the Island. I planned the first Brazilian Carnaval, with Imigrasamba, a nine-piece band from the Boston area. I've done parties with famous DJs, Brazilian actors, various bands. The most famous was Oludum [familiar to non-Brazilians as the group which provided percussion on Paul Simon's Rhythm of the Saints album]. They came in June 2004.

"It was so great. When they started playing those drums I thought the whole place was going to come right down. It was so packed that at the end of the night, when the music stopped people were still dancing like they were stuck to each other," she said.

"I make very little money out of it, usually about enough to pay my phone bill. Mostly I do it because it's personally rewarding. People on the Island get depressed, homesick. I went through depression when I first got here with the cultural shock, because I wanted a little bit of Brazil, too."

Her current project is what she calls a "pre-revillon" (a pre-New Year's party) at Outerland on Dec. 29. The band will be Banda Ponto Com (band dot com), a Brazilian-American crossover band from Boston.

"They have such a presence," she said. "They've come twice before, they play some things Americans would know, and some Americans have come before, but not as many as I would wish. Anybody's welcome."

Her American friends call her a Brazilian Islander, a term she proudly adopts, for it describes not just her experience but her aspirations.

If she becomes a lawyer, her practice will be immigration law; her ambition to the Supreme Court is based on the belief that it needs someone who has had the immigrant experience. And if she gravitates to international relations, it will be because she wants to reconcile the desires of the world's have-nots with the trepidation of the world's haves.

"I just hate injustice," she said. "Wherever I can do more good, be of more help, that's where I'll go."