Undocumented students find solace, support in community hubs started by educators

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by Brianna Brooks

When Anna first walked into the DREAM Center at Los Angeles’ Lincoln High School, she was a shy teenager who could barely speak up. Today, Anna says she feels like she has the power and confidence to one day become a leader in the fight for immigration reform.

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Anna is just one example of the tremendous impact the Paula Crisostomo DREAM Center has had on thousands of undocumented students in California.

“I’ve witnessed firsthand students developing the courage, confidence, and agency to come out of their shells and come into their own,” says Anjelica Reyes, lead coordinator at the Dream Center and an undocumented student leader at the University of California, Los Angeles, “This center is for our students; it’s a reminder of the power our community holds when we set out to make our world a better place.”

The Paula Crisostomo DREAM Center is a hub where undocumented students and parents can gather and receive legal support and guidance filling out Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) paperwork. The center also houses the Immigrant Justice Advocate Club, where undocumented Youth Leaders and student allies are trained to give DACA presentations at other schools and community centers.

Being a Youth Leader at the DREAM Center has opened doors for many undocumented students to give back to their community, gain a sense of self confidence, and fight for the safety and wellbeing of their peers.

Just 10 minutes away, at Alhambra High School, Javier Gutierrez and Josh Moreno, members of the Alhambra Teachers Association, have started the IDEAS Club to provide college-bound undocumented youth with information on the DREAM Act, DACA, and financial aid for undocumented students.

Both the Dream Center and the IDEAS Club are made possible through a collaboration of community partners and an NEA grant: Together, Cal State University Northridge CFA (California Faculty Association), United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA), and the Alhambra Teachers Association, have teamed with NEA’s Minority Community Organizing and Partnerships Department to aid over 1,500 undocumented students in the LA area.

“It’s a great partnership that helps brings a wide variety of strengths to our DREAMer programs,” says Arlene Inouye, UTLA Treasurer, who notes that collaboration has helped them expand their reach in helping undocumented students. “Local members are very proud of the work we’re doing to advance justice for our students and they’re proud to be part of NEA.”

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