CU Dreamers Make College A Reality With Scholarship

Photo: Sarai Nissan


In a time where insults and political carnage splatter across headlines and newsfeeds, students on the Auraria Campus have united to bring awareness to making education accessible to everybody—especially to those who are undocumented.

According to the American Immigration Council, there are approximately 65,000 undocumented high school graduates, and few attend college. This is mainly because of the adversity they face in admissions as undocumented students. Out of those students, about 56 confirmed undocumented students are at CU Denver, which Undocumented Student Services at CU Denver told the Sentry . Although the number might seem low, student leaders on campus are continuously advocating for getting more undocumented students through university doors.

Reydesel Salvidrez, a transfer student and current co-president of the CU Dreamers organization—an education opportunity program for undocumented students—talked about his original efforts to provide support for undocumented students. Originally born in Mexico, Salvidrez has now found a home within the United States, pursuing success and opportunity in higher education—something that didn’t seem possible for him before.

“In my senior year of high school, I found out I couldn’t go to college because of my immigration status,” Salvidrez said. He shared with the Sentry that there was virtually no support from his high school, which left him out of the loop when it came to thinking about college.

through overcoming this obstacle, he finally realized that applying to college was worth the risk, and he got accepted to Metro State. He eventually dropped out; not for academic reasons, but because he didn’t have the money to pay the out-of-state tuition required of undocumented students. Money made school impossible at this time and limited his opportunity to further pursue a career, or so he thought.

Many students like Salvidrez are limited in their ability to initially claim citizenship, which is why thousands of Americans teamed up to draft the DREAM ACT, a legislation created to step toward equality and find a voice for immigrants in the American population. Many people were brought into the United States by their parents as children in an effort to find a home, opportunity, and success.

Unfortunately, since they were not born in the United States, this move unwelcomely classified these children as “illegal.” Immigrant youth sought the opportunity to be granted a legal immigration status because it makes attending and paying for college far more reasonable than as an undocumented student. Salvidrez and rest of the undocumented student community realized that their citizenship status wasn’t a determinant of success.

Salvidrez originally wondered if there were others like him in a world controlled by capitalism. Little did he know there was a close-knit community of undocumented students hidden throughout the hustle and bustle of the Auraria Campus and in other schools around the nation.

After jumping constant hurdles, Salvidrez’s network filled with people that disregarded his immigration status and understood his background and struggles as an undocumented student. People believed in him and knew he could succeed, which eventually granted him the opportunity to attend college for a semester for free.

Salvidrez knew he had the power to inf luence his community to seek opportunities that allowed students to attend university even when they didn’t think college was a possibility. “People lose hope, and we want to support them during these times,” Salvidrez said.

With the recent inception of the CU Dreamers program, people began rallying to allow undocumented students to attend college without the fear of being discriminated against based on their immigration status. Co-president for the CU Dreamers organization Yvette Ledezma believes that immigration status shouldn’t prevent her community from obtaining success. Instead, everyone should be collaborating for the same common goal. Although she doesn’t identify herself as an undocumented student, Ledezma still stands in solidarity with those who do by being an ally to the undocumented student population. “It puts me in a self less position,” Ledezma said. “I know people who are undocumented, and even though it doesn’t affect me, I understand that it does affect those around me.”

Her passion for caring for others has allowed her to advocate for undocumented students. She doesn’t want to be passive; she believes that her ability to connect with others is crucial to further understanding the needs and wants of the undocumented student population. “It’s all about self growth and understanding where people are coming from, and pushing for different resources; we can do this by sharing their stories,” Ledezma said.

The CU Dreamers have created conversations on campus about what it means to be undocumented and how the student body can come together to provide support for those who may not think that they can attend college. They are committed to removing the stigma against undocumented students; a specific citizenship doesn’t define their actions, personality, or intelligence.

Dominick Lucero, a student at CU Denver and an undocumented student ally, shared why it’s important to invest in a large initiative like the CU Dreamers program.

After taking a class at CU Denver, Lucero saw the harsh realities many face as a part of the undocumented experience. “They shouldn’t have to do it on their own,” Lucero said. “It’s a world most people don’t know about, but we have to raise awareness of the trials and tribulations of undocumented students.”

The CU Dreamers organization has now expanded and consists of about 15 allies and a number of undocumented students at CU Denver. They are coming together to help those who are afraid of sharing their immigration status and encourage them to come out and share their stories with the community. Even in light of the current unnerving political mess at the presidential candidate debates, people are coming together when times seem dark and gloomy.

“People feel like they can’t talk about being undocumented,” Salvidrez said. “The purpose of this organization is to help develop their roles as leaders and mentors, especially in a community like ours.”

The CU Dreamers are advocating for undocumented rights individually, but they have collected the support of different offices and organizations around campus. They are building a collectivist project for seeking legal immigration status and support for those whom might be undocumented.

Akshay Kumar, Vice President of the CU Denver Student Government Association, feels that this is a revolutionary time, especially for undocumented students. With regards to understanding the current student population, Kumar recognises the potential that SGA has to directly impact students who might need extra help. “Almost half of our recent incoming class identify as first-generation, including undocumented students,” Kumar said. “I recognize and empathize with the issues that they face and I want to do my best to help.”

Recently, the CU Dreamers hosted a benefit gala called “World of Dreams at Rio Grande” in an effort to raise funds for the CU Dream Scholarship Fund, a scholarship pool that would provide opportunities for students to pursue their degree without fear of not being able to pay for school.

“We want to make it easier for undocumented students to access support,” Salvidrez said. “We will work to help those who need it, because everybody deserves the right to an education.”

Even though the candidates running for office may be painting a negative narrative for the undocumented population in the US, students on Auraria Campus are looking forward to opportunity and success. The CU Dreamers are turning a dream

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