It’s easy for undocumented people to feel less human when they don’t have a paper validating their right to live in a country that promised them freedom and security. But regardless of their immigration status, California Community Colleges are committed to serving all of its students. In an effort to share the experiences of undocumented individuals, I reached out to a few California Community College undocumented students and asked, “What is at stake and what would citizenship mean to you?” These are their stories.
According to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), a student is considered homeless if he or she does not have regular, fixed, or even adequate housing. This is inclusive of students who live in parks, motels, cars, shelters, and others who live with other people on a temporary basis since they do not have anywhere else to go. Almost every part of the world contains students who are homeless, but many studies find that California is one of the leading states in the world where homelessness has become a major concern. In an effort to minimize the level of educational and financial unattainability, the Community College League of California has released a new report offering California Community Colleges recommendations for reducing institutional and procedural barriers that prevent students from receiving their maximum financial aid, while also improving the disbursement of financial aid awards in a timely manner.
The Community College League of California spoke with Pamela “Pam” Ortiz Cerda, a DACA recipient and undocumented advocate, about a day in the life of a dream center. Pam is the Dream Center Program Coordinator at Skyline College in the San Mateo Community College District.
We don’t have to look far to see the impact of food insecurity on college campuses. Recent reports show that 48 percent of community college students are food insecure. At Cerritos College, 25 percent of students qualify for the state’s EBT/CalFresh program. The CalFresh Program, federally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), issues monthly electronic benefits that can be used to purchase most foods at many markets and restaurants. As such, students are facing an unspeakable dilemma – having to choose between paying for living expenses or purchasing a meal.
It is a sunny Thursday morning in Aptos, California, and a large truck from Second Harvest Food Bank Santa Cruz drives onto the campus of Cabrillo College. Boxes of fresh produce – carrots, watermelons, potatoes, lettuce, corn, and tomatoes – are unloaded by student volunteers and brought into the upper quad. A sandwich board sign with large letters announcing “Free Produce” at the “Cabrillo Fresh Market” is strategically placed in the middle of the main thoroughfare, hoping to attract the attention of passers-by on their way to and from class. Anyone within the Cabrillo community is welcome.