It’s a long road to a college education for most undocumented students. About 98,000 graduate from high school in the U.S. each year, but only 5-10 percent go to college. Once there, they walk a financial tightrope to graduation.
Tuition and living costs add up quickly; tuition alone is more than $44,000 at UC Davis for those who don’t qualify for protected status or in-state tuition. Often the first in their family to go to college, students may juggle two or three jobs to make ends meet. Those who can’t work legally have an even tougher burden, but more than 730 undocumented students have beaten the odds to attend UC Davis this year.
This campaign, supported by the Unitarian Universalist Church of Davis, aims to raise $5,000 for emergency grants to lighten their load. We have developed a relationship with SPEAK, a student-run organization at UC Davis that supports the undocumented students who are the beneficiaries of this campaign.
UUCD raised money via Faithify for the same purpose in 2017 but student need continues to outstrip resources. Last year, only a quarter of the 73 students who applied for emergency grants got them. The need is even more urgent this year.
“Especially now, with COVID-19, there’s more need for financial support,” said Ana Sandoval Contreras, co-coordinator of SPEAK. “Students have used emergency grants for paying rent, buying groceries and providing support for their families. At $200 to $300 each, it is not a lot, but money that is needed. I have received one in the past. It was very helpful. I used it to buy groceries and books.”
We see this campaign as a simple matter of social justice and access to education. It also follows UU traditions of reaching out to under-represented and vulnerable groups and collaboration across age, ethnic and economic divisions. We have received an urgent request from SPEAK leaders for help.
We hope you will support this effort to help undocumented students at a particularly scary time for immigrants in this country.
Ana Sandoval, 21, is a fourth-year student who expects to take five years to graduate. She has relied on a variety of grants, scholarships and food vouchers to stay afloat and healthy during her college days. She currently works at the AB540 and Undocumented Center at UC Davis as a community advocate.
Born in Puebla, Mexico, she came to the United States in 2009 with her mother and sister. She was nine years old. Her father already lived here. Sandoval was told to pack one backpack with a couple of sets of clothes for a visit to her father.
“My aunt knew we were never coming back but for me, it didn’t click that this was the last time I’d see grandparents and everybody I knew back there,” she said. “It’s hit me now: the whole trauma of leaving my childhood for a whole new identity. I can’t go visit.”
Reunited with her father, Sandoval grew up in the San Fernando Valley outside Los Angeles. Her mother cleans houses. Her father is a plumber and construction worker. A variety of cousins, uncles and aunts now live nearby. A few relatives have visited from Mexico.
Sandoval started fourth grade in a year-round school that sent her back to second and third grade in off quarters so she could catch up. She learned English, made new friends but never shared her story.
When others began working on college applications, Ana didn’t think she could go. Then she attended a conference put on by the Chicano Latino Youth Leadership Project, a nonprofit that emphasizes the importance of culture, community, college and careers.
“I didn’t know I was undocumented,” she said. “It was not until I attended the conference, became really comfortable with others — and another person told their story — that I wanted to learn more about college. It was a milestone for my aspirations, my understanding about being undocumented and wanting to give back to my community.”
Now a senior at UC Davis, Sandoval is majoring in sociology and Chicano studies with a minor in education. She’s looking at graduate school and careers that range from student affairs to higher education to help students learn how to get involved and go to college.
She applied for a long list of emergency grants and scholarships to be able to afford college.
“It does feel like I’m on edge,” she said. “You can apply to 10 programs and hear from only one or two. Very few people get them. Thankfully, I’ve gotten some state support as well as grants.” Immigrant students with DACA protection have work permits, but the future of the program remains unclear. Sandoval missed qualification for DACA by a few months.
With your help, SPEAK hopes to provide emergency grants once again.
Laura Monica Bohorquez Garcia, Director of the AB540 and Undocumented Student Center
11/12/2020 marked the one year anniversary of the SCOTUS DACA Supreme Court decision. It is a day that I will always remember not only because of the decision but because of the power, strategy, and joy that I witnessed outside of the Supreme Court on 11/12/19. I carry this memory and I get to relive it everyday as I work alongside the AB540 and Undocumented Student community at UC Davis. I witness this power and joy every day when I talk to my family as someone who is part of a mixed- immigration status family and when I meet with students as the Director of the AB540 and Undocumented Student Center. Everyday I am reminded that we as an immigrant community are powerful as I see how UC Davis students own and navigate their power and use their courage to ask for help, to provide help, and to be helped. I invite you to join UC Davis students in their strength and give what your capacity allows you to.
Don Saylor, Yolo County Supervisor
Supervisor, Second District
County of Yolo
625 Court Street, Room 204, Woodland, CA 95695-1268 (530) 666-8622
District Office: 600 A Street, Suite B Davis, CA 95616 (530) 757-5557
October 23, 2020
To Whom it May Concern:
I am writing to you in my capacity as a Yolo County Supervisor representing District 2 to convey my strong endorsement and support of the Scholars Promoting Education, Awareness and Knowledge (SPEAK) program.
As a County Supervisor, I am committed to serving and supporting all members of our community, regardless of their immigration status. In my district in Yolo County, which includes the City of Davis, City of Winters and the University of California, Davis, (UC Davis), many of the young people who attend UC Davis are first generation college students, DACA youth, or are undocumented. UC Davis is ranked as one of the top public universities in the nation, and these young people contribute greatly to its success.
SPEAK provides small emergency grants to undocumented UC Davis students to help with critical expenses when money gets tight. They are among the hardest working people I have met, but have little access to the basic resources other students take for granted. I know of cases where students chose not to eat or buy textbooks to make ends meet. During these challenging COVID-19 times with less work opportunities available, these students need our support now more than ever.
I invite you to join me in supporting the SPEAK program to offer critical support and community to these students.
In shared service,
Don Saylor, Yolo County Supervisor, District 2
Member, Unitarian Universalist Church of Davis
11/25/2020These students deserve our support!$100.00