Dare to Dream: Immigrant students gather at Macalester

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On March 1, Macalester’s Adelante! student group organized the Dare to Dream Committee and successfully put together the first Dare to Dream Conference for undocumented students. In partnership with Navigate MN, over 40 students and their families took part in the comprehensive event that included financial aid and MN Dream Act presentations, introduction to college life in a four-year institution, information for families and parents in Spanish, relevant mock-up classes, campus tours, and a student panel with undocu/DACAmented students from different institutions in the state of Minnesota.

“High school students left excited to organize Latino/a students on their campus! This, among other things, made the conference a success. I am very honored that the Dare to Dream Committee was able to offer a space where the exchange of ideas and stories took place,” reflected Jocelyne Cardona, American Studies major, Class of 2014, committee co-facilitator. Student leader Carol Mejia added, “Our first annual Dare to Dream Conference proved powerful. However, next year we are hoping to be bold; bold in the number of participants attending our event, the number of colleges and students collaborating to put on the conference, and bold in collaborating with different private colleges to increase the number of affirmative action policies created for the admissions and financial aid support of undocumented students. We look forward to making sure community outreach for undocumented students is prioritized on a yearly basis on behalf of higher education institutions, and to passing on the torch of student-led, student-run leadership initiatives to making sure college is accessible and inclusive of undocu-students”

The undocumented student experience should be addressed when we talk about education equity. Access to higher education maximizes the investment the state has already made in their basic education, and also provides a path to diverse opportunities and solutions to close the achievement gap. Adelante! and Dare2Dream Committee recognized the opportunities, cost and affordability, and networks as key influences on the selection process, as the first step in assisting undocumented students.

Adelante! comes to campus

Adelante! is a Macalester student organization “dedicated to increasing awareness and appreciation of US Latina/o Chicana/o and Latin American culture, politics and society”. It was through Adelante‘s leadership plans on the fall 2011, to include immigration narratives within their activities on campus.

Macalester was founded in 1874, and “has provided students the inspiration, insight and experience to become successful and ethical leaders.” Today, Macalester’s community of students is about 1950, with a 21 percent representation of domestic (in state and out of state) students of color, according to Macalester Office of Multicultural Life.

In the spring of 2012, Gaby Pacheco, an immigrant rights leader from Miami, Florida visited Macalester. With the momentum built, students organized a series of events to push for institutional support of undocumented students.

Eventually, these students took on outside of campus activities with the MN Prosperity Act (Dream Act2) introduced in the Minnesota legislature by Senator Sandy Pappas and Representative Carlos Mariani in the spring of 2013. With this, Adelante! sat at the table with directly affected students and allies from all over the state that pushed for the passage of the MN Dream Act. After successful lobbying and strategic planning by the wide and diversified coalition, the proposal was signed into a law in May of 2013.

Adelante! and Dare2Dream Committee pushed for administrative improvement in the services and resources directed to undocumented students. Through such effort, not only will the recruitment and retention of undocumented students improve, but also other first-generation college students will also benefit.

It is a clear message; when student organizations lead and promote civic engagement that is integrated and focused on effecting change through thoughtful community engagement and activism they are also preparing students to live compassionately, think critically, and improve communities around the world. Our communities win, and Macalester does as well.