- Unitarian Universalism Connection
Stretch Goal Added!
Keep the dream alive — Help undocumented students stay in college
It’s a long path to a university education for most undocumented students. Once there, they walk a financial tightrope to graduation.
Immigrant families save for years to send their child to college, but tuition and living costs add up quickly. Often the first in their family to go to college, students may juggle two or three jobs to make ends meet. Students who can’t work legally have an even tougher financial burden.
More than 470 undocumented students beat the odds — and currently attend the University of California at Davis. This campaign, supported by the Unitarian Universalist Church of Davis, will raise at least $5,000 for emergency scholarship grants to lighten their load.
The beneficiary is a student-run organization that supports undocumented students on campus and in surrounding communities.
Scholars Promoting Education, Awareness and Knowledge — better known as SPEAK — offers emergency grants of up to $500 for tuition, rent or other expenses. The organization’s current annual budget is only $3,600. Together, we will more than double that amount. Grant awards are decided by a panel of SPEAK alumni.
The need is great. This is a matter of justice and access to education.
We hope you will support this effort to help undocumented students at a particularly scary time for immigrants in this country.
For many immigrants, higher education is a longtime dream and a daily struggle.
Mishi is 24, from Bolivia — and poised to become the first in her family to get a college degree when she graduates from the University of California at Davis in June.
It took six years, thousands of dollars and much tenacity to get there. At one point, she juggled four jobs while going to school full time.
“I had to find my ways,” Mishi says simply. But it wasn’t easy.
Born in the city of Cochabama in the heart of Bolivia, she was nine when her parents emigrated to the U.S. Mishi, her grandmother and younger brother followed seven years later. She was 16 and halfway through her sophomore year of high school when she started a different life in Half Moon Bay, in the Bay Area of California. She practiced English, played sports, took a job at a sushi place and started saving for college.
Interested in health, Mishi worked full-time during four years of community college before landing at UC Davis in 2015. Ineligible for protected status or in-state tuition, she faced tuition costs alone of almost $40,000 a year.
“My mom just told me, ‘you have to go,’’ Mishi said.
She deferred payment and split the tab with her parents the first year. “I didn’t grow up with my parents and I didn’t want to ask them, but I had to.”
When her savings ran low at the end of her first year, she stayed for the summer session because international students pay less tuition for that quarter.
Mishi took planned educational leave in the fall, signed up for an unpaid internship and cobbled together four jobs to make ends meet. She worked in a lab, did silk screening, taught quinceanera dancing at a Bay Area restaurant and offered rides for $50 each way.
She also created a Go Fund Me online fundraising account. A number of $300 to $500 scholarships helped fill in the gaps. She joined SPEAK – the beneficiary of this campaign — to help empower other students to stick with their education no matter how difficult things get.
A genetics major, Mishi would like to get an master’s degree and work on genetic diseases in her own community. But for now, she needs to work.
“I know there are other students like me,” she said. “ I am sharing my story for them.”
“Ninety-eight percent of undocumented students at UC Davis struggle financially to meet the rising costs of attending college. Ineligible for federal financial aid, they face a financial shortfall that makes covering costs like books, rent and food very difficult. Having additional support for our undocumented students will allow them to focus on their studies and thrive as students.
SPEAK is an outstanding student organization that has been a touchstone for undocumented students at UC Davis for many years. The incredible work that they do includes scholarships to students in need, as well as providing a sense of community and family for students who may be a long way from home. I have always been impressed by the dedication, perseverance and love that SPEAK shows for members of our immigrant communities. I could not envision our campus without this vital student group.”
Andrea Gaytan, director, AB540 & Undocumented Student Center, University of California, Davis
“If we have eyes to see and ears to hear, we know these kids are our own.
They are among the hardest working people I have met. Through no fault of their own, they live with uncertainty and 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. One student told me that her whole town held a tamale sale to help pay for her first quarter.
A small emergency grant could make the difference between a student advancing their education or losing housing and being forced to withdraw. Together, we can make a profound difference for individual students — a difference that will change the cycle for generations.”
Don Saylor, Yolo County Supervisor and member of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Davis