ELAC alumna joins Dream Resource Center faculty

By Annette Quijada

Carmen Macias, an East  Los Angeles College alumna is the newest counselor to the Dream Resource Center.

Macias was born in Jalisco, Mexico and migrated to the United States with her family before she was three. Because of this, Macias was able to fall under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

 She said she was able to understand her immigration status once she got into high school. 

DACA is a immigration policy that was created by the Obama administration in 2012 that granted undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S as children protection from deportation. 

Also included was a work authorization card and a social security number.

While attending ELAC, Macias joined a program called Adelante, which is very similar to the First Year Experience program ELAC currently has. Through this program, Macias met Political Science professor Amida Ornelas. Macias said Ornelas reminded her that ELAC was not her last stop.

“Through her class, I realized she was a person I could trust with disclosing my [immigration] status. It was her knowledge of policy and the political science system that really inspired me. I disclosed my status to her and right away she had all these resources for me,” Macias said.

Macias was introduced to the Students for Equal Rights club by Ornelas.

“We did a lot of campaigns here at ELAC, advocating for the California Dream Act and informing students about AB540. This was my introduction to advocacy and education,” Macias said. 

AB540 allows undocumented students access to in-state tuition at California colleges and universities.

Macias transferred out of ELAC to attend University of California, Santa Cruz. She said it was a no-brainer to attend UCSC because most of the members of the SER club had transferred there. 

Macias bounced around while trying to decide she wanted to degree in, from Child Development to substance abuse counselor, but ultimately she ended in Psychology.

“When I was at ELAC, I didn’t know what I wanted to study. There were a lot of ‘What was the point of getting a degree if I can’t work because I’m not a U.S citizen?’” Macias said.

After graduating, Macias came back to East Los Angeles and found herself not using her degree, but working at a hotel instead. Eventually she found a job as a college adviser. She was working directly with high school students and their college applications. Macias realized she enjoyed working with students.

“As I was doing this type of work, it was frustrating to see the lack of information and communication about undocumented students. I realized I need to be in education to continue to demystify all of this wrong information about access to higher education as an undocumented student,” Macias said. 

Later Macias decided to go back to school and get her masters in counseling. Macias said she understood that if she wanted to serve undocumented students in higher education, she would have to be employed at a community college. 

Macias made her way back to ELAC through her Masters program. She was interning with the First Year Experience program on campus. Soon after receiving her Masters, she joined the ELAC counseling faculty as an adjunct instructor. Macias was and still is teaching student success courses. Macias was later approached by the Dean of Student Services, Dr. Vanessa Ochoa about the DRC.

“When Dr. Ochoa asked me if I wanted to be a part of the DRC as a counselor, that was a yes for me. It was like coming home. It was a full circle of having counselors guiding me and ELAC nourishing me as a student,” Macias said. 

Macias has only been with the DRC for less then a month, but says she has already met amazing scholars. Macias said her vision is to have an undocumented transfer network of resources that demonstrate that as a community college student you can transfer to any University.

“Working at the DRC gives me the opportunity to serve the population I want to serve and close the educational achievement and equity gaps. And to continue to improve the mobility of undocumented students within the Los Angeles area,” Macias said.

Macias said after COVID-19 a lot of students stopped enrolling in college. When looking at enrollment numbers of undocumented students, the number has decreased, Macias said.

“Now more than ever we have the resources for them to be successful. But a lot of times this information is not getting out to the community,” Macias said.

Macias said she hopes to be able to grow the DRC staff to reach the larger population of undocumented students.

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