By Frank Portillo
The Dream Resource Center provides resources for all students in need, including those who are undocumented, homeless and/or members of the LGBTQ community.
“The intent (of the program) is always going to be (providing) a place where our students can come and feel like they’re welcomed and a part of something.
Many students still live in what they call ‘the shadows.’ Our students are still fearful, especially in these times, to go to one of our departments and offices and say ‘Hey, I’m undocumented. What do I do next?’” said center coordinator Reyna Hernandez.
Among the resources provided are assistance with legal aid, assistance with applications for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, help with the California Dream Act and providing food security for students in need.
Hernandez said that some undocumented students are stuck paying out-of-state tuition costs and that the center assists students in avoiding those additional costs.
Given the current political state, Hernandez thinks the center is crucial to the campus and community as a whole.
Hernandez said that the center began about two to three years ago when the administration was reviewing data for undocumented students and other minority groups.
She said that the administration felt that there should be a hub of resources for students on campus.
The goal of the administration was reflected by a student organization on campus called Student for Equal Rights, which was pushed for more resources dedicated to undocumented students.
Hernandez said the organization proposed the idea to the administration, unaware that the concept was being worked on already.
Hernandez, however, was not the first to act as the center’s coordinator. The first coordinator was Jessica Pena, who is now a counselor in the Career and Job center.
Hernandez called the students who visit the center “familia.” She also said that the intent of the center is to provide a place for students to feel welcome.
Before becoming the coordinator for the center, Hernandez worked to assist at-risk or underrepresented students in the Extended Opportunity Programs and Services and Cooperating Agencies Foster Youth Educational Support program.
“I was asked if I would love to take a position where I can help the program grow. Being undocumented myself, at one point, I can really relate to (the students),” Hernandez said.
Hernandez thinks that it was the students’ voices and advocacy that pushed the resource center agenda.
In summer 2016, a space was assigned to the center. The original location was in the EOPS office.
Acquiring a space for the center was a benchmark in its success, but Hernandez felt like the location was too small and not private enough.
“The problem with that space was mainly visibility. Our students had to sign in and say ‘Hey, I’m here for the Dream Resource Center.’
Even though it was a great space to have, it wasn’t the ideal space to have for our students because they had to go through all this other stuff to get through to our office space,” Hernandez said.
She also said that further discussions regarding the undocumented students and the new legislation, which affects these students, was the reason for needing a physical space dedicated solely to the center.
In January, the Dream Resource Center was relocated to E1-142, which has a large sign with the center’s name on it.
Hernandez said that students who are in need of assistance with any type of issue can visit the office anytime.
In the new space, there is a private room which offers students safety when participating in one-on-one consultations.
In the past, the center partnered with the Loyola Immigrant Justice Clinic to provide free, private aid for students filling out DACA applications.
Oscar Cruz, Associated Student Union president, is among the students who has benefited from the resources of the center.
Other than Hernandez, the center employs two liaisons and four student workers, including Jaci Cortez who was featured in the last issue of Campus News.
Another of the student workers, Jesika De Jesus, got emotional when she said that the Dream Resource Center made a huge impact on her life.
She was introduced to the center through a series of workshops that were dedicated to undocumented students.
After hesitating to attend, she discovered and connected with students who were in similar situations to hers.
After a few workshops, the resource center began and de Jesus was offered employment as a student worker.
She credits the resource center as the reason for her success and being able to accomplish her goals, which she was kept from accomplishing in her high school years because of her citizenship status.
“Before the (resource center), I felt like I was alone. I had no one to talk to and say ‘Hey, I’m undocumented.’ I had no one to relate to. … Now, I’m open to so many opportunities and doing so many things that I never imagined doing.
I’m applying to scholarships. I’m an (ASU) board member now. These are things that I wanted to do when I was in high school, but didn’t have anyone to guide me.
Now, I feel like I have a family and people that look out for me, especially (Hernandez),” de Jesus said.
She said that the center represents a safe haven in which students can be themselves without fears of being judged, and that she does everything in her power to ensure that students don’t feel as she once did.
Despite having received a new space in January, Hernandez said that the traffic of students and growth calls for an even larger space for the center.
She hopes that the center can find other resources for the diverse student population.
She said students that have graduated return to provide the center with mentors or even job opportunities outside of school.
“It’s been great to know that we have all of this community support that wants to help our students,” Hernandez said.
Students interested in the resources offered, or just a sense of community can visit the office in E1-142.