To navigate through the education system is not an easy task, and sometimes it turns into a stormy voyage.
But for a segment of the student population called “dreamers” (undocumented students who were brought to this country at an early age), the trip can often be disastrous.
Those who stay afloat are often determined, persistent, and well-informed.
To lessen the difficulties that these “dreamers” face and to accelerate the path to graduation that would give them a chance to obtain the American Dream, San Bernardino Valley College opened on April 14 the Dreamers Resource Center, the first of its kind in California, said education officials.
“San Bernardino Valley College understands the needs of the student population and is acting in their favor. With this center, dreamers can receive all the information in one place. Their success depends on us," said Gloria Fisher, president of the college.
The new center is located in the College of Liberal Arts building, office 121.
According to Sylvia Juarez-Magana, education consultant, it will provide various services, including personal, academic and professional advice; advice on the Dream Act, which was signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2011; consultancy and financial aid advice.
In addition, the new center will provide students support through workshops so they can obtain information on how to successfully transfer to a four-year university. The center will also give “dreamers” information on how to complete enough credits for certificates or transfer requirements, added Juarez-Magana.
For Isabel Rodriguez, 20, who plans to graduate in 2017 and transfer to Cal State San Bernardino, the resource center is a real oasis.
“That’s exactly what students like me need, a center where we can obtain all the necessary information. This will save us time and money -- money we don’t have. I hope students get brave, come out of the shadows and ask for help," said Rodriguez, who was brought to the United States in 2004 from Tecalitlan, Jalisco, Mexico.
Enrique Murillo, executive director of LEAD and professor at CSUSB, who served as grand marshal of the event, said the center is a gateway for those who dream of one day becoming successful professionals.
Murillo added that the vast majority of students do not understand the education system or how to ask for financial aid. Exacerbating the situation, many educational counselors do not know the rules that apply to “dreamers."
“Research on and experience with dreamers has shown among the principal factors in success have been safe and trusting relationships with adults, teachers, counselors, and advisors who provide valuable assistance and resources, access to information about postsecondary options, financial support for college and lower levels of family responsibility," said Murillo.
He also said the center represents a window into the future since an informed student is a powerful human being.
“Dreamer students are California students. They are not going anywhere. You are here, and we need to help take people out of the shadows and make them productive citizens," he added.
Since the Dream Act came into effect, thousands of undocumented people have been able to obtain degrees, and with the deferred action of 2012 many have obtain work permits. For now, the deferred action expansion is on pause, and so is the future of many students.
During the first year, more than 32,000 undocumented students applied for the Dream Act and that about 7,500 of them received financial aid through Cal Grants. Murillo said that thanks to area workshops, local students have been able to obtain about $78 million, money that would otherwise would have been lost.
“In the current governor’s budget, there is a Cal Grant program growth -- an increase of $68.9 million to the general fund in 2014-15, and $198.2 million to the general fund in 2015-16, to reflect increased participation. And of these adjustments, $48.3 million in 2014-15 and $67 million in 2015-16 are attributable to the continuing implementation of the California Dream Act. There is money available -- go get it," said Murillo.
Juarez-Magana said that the student population at SBVC is about 15,000, of which about 450 are dreamers. For now, the center will assist students through appointments, but next semester it will operate from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.