Last week, the California Community Colleges system held its 7th annual Undocumented Student Action Week, and Calbright College participated for the first time with its own event.
Undocumented Student Action Week matters because the California Community Colleges (CCC) system enrolls the largest population of undocumented students in the nation, and they face unique challenges getting an education. So CCC staff, faculty, and administrators need to learn what they can do and ways they can help those students achieve their goals and dreams.
Calbright College embraces this: all Californian adults with a high school diploma or equivalent are welcome at Calbright, no questions asked. But we do need to understand their needs as students, in order to help them the way we do all our students.
So this year Calbright’s Student Engagement hosted a panel discussion with undocumented students to talk about their college experiences and help us understand how to be supportive allies.
“Promoting allyship for marginalized populations is directly in line with the Calbright mandate and mission,” said Donna Howard, a student engagement specialist, and an organizer of the event.
The presenting students attended a California community college and then transferred to a four year college, and shared their struggles navigating the educational system and overcoming political barriers. The webinar was not recorded in order to allow them to be honest while staying safe.
“From our previous experiences in working directly with undocumented students, we know it is important to recognize their isolation in their struggles as they cannot share their immigration status with just anyone,” said Amna Jara, who manages student and alumni engagement and relations at Calbright, and helped organize the event. “The daily reminders they are faced with that make them feel less-than and who to trust with their secret. Finding allies is important, but it’s also for the educators to understand the struggles these students are faced with.”