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Supporting undocumented students’ road to college

Half way through my first year at college I find myself asking, what am I doing here? Why, out of all the things in the world I might be doing and out of all the places I might be, am I at Carleton? While I try to tell myself that it is because I want to be a part of a community of learners and thinkers, because in order to do anything creative or important in the world it helps to have a college degree, or because it is the best way to challenge my thinking and focus my interests, eventually I have to admit that I am here largely due to inertia: I am at college because that is what I was expected and raised to do and so that is what I did. Even if I hadn’t come to school this year, it was always a given that I would get here at some point in my life. And, if I can be at college without even really having to make the conscious decision to come here, why can’t students who are actively trying to pursue a college education, who have defied all odds and overcome countless obstacles, and whose motivation to learn probably exceeds that of many of us Carls go to college?

Every year 60,000 undocumented immigrants graduate from American high schools and most of them face incredible challenges as they work to continue their education, irrespective of their qualification, motivation, or desire. They are unable to receive federal financial aid, they are stigmatized, and they are stuck. Many of them are strangers to the countries that they were born in, but they also find themselves ignored and cast aside by this country, the one in which they grew up. The injustice of this situation is evident, and on March 4th we have the opportunity to help fight it.

March 4th is Student Lobby Day for the Minnesota Dream Act. The Minnesota Dream Act would grant in-state tuition at public colleges and universities to undocumented students who graduate high school in Minnesota. In some cases this could reduce educational costs by as much as $12,000. Most of these students grew up in Minnesota, were educated in Minnesota schools, and many have the motivation, aptitude, and determination to continue their education. The fact that they are denied opportunities available to the rest of their classmates simply because of where they happened to be born is indefensible.

On March 4th high schoolers from around the state will converge on the capitol to talk with their representatives about why the Minnesota Dream Act is important both to them and to the state of Minnesota. The high schoolers need college students to organize, supervise, and give them encouragement and support during the course of the day. It is really important for everyone who can go to get involved. Not only would you be helping to provide a unique educational experience for many high school students, you would also be getting involved in trying to rectify this serious injustice in a tangible, important, and fun way. In an election year in which people are getting excited about politics again, this is a perfect opportunity to convert that excitement into action, results, and change.

Even if you can’t make it to lobby day, start thinking about this issue or something else that really makes you mad, happy, or passionate, and do something about it. And if, like me, you don’t know exactly why or how you got here, figure it out or get out. Being at Carleton is a privilege and we all have a responsibility to acknowledge and to use that privilege – especially while so many undocumented students are facing incredibly difficult obstacles as they work to continue their education.

Contact Elizabeth Lienesch (lienesce) or Amanda Otero (oteroa) with questions or to sign up to attend Student Lobby Day.

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