by Jose Arreola
Foothill Community College
Educators for Fair Consideration (Target 2020 Award Winner)
I arrived to the Target 2020 California Summit, Friday afternoon with the understanding that I would contribute to creating innovative Millennial-led solutions to the challenges we face as community college students. After so many political discussions, inspirational speakers and powerful stories, I believe we achieved that goal. Yet as I was walking out of the hotel on Sunday afternoon, what lingered within me was a profound vision of what it truly means to fully participate in a democracy. This vision was especially overwhelming to me because, as an undocumented immigrant, I am not afforded democratic participation in our society.
As a result of my immigration status I do not know what it feels like to vote nor can I legally work, which essentially means that I am not granted an equal voice. My needs and the needs of my community are often disregarded, overlooked and ignored. As an undocumented student, I am not eligible for state and federal financial aid. This additional challenge makes community college the most accessible institution of higher learning for undocumented students. But even at community college, we find it challenging to cover costs and find support networks. Yet during the Target 2020 California Summit, I was given a seat at the table, a microphone to voice my concerns and a vote to express my will for a better and more just society. No one at my table cared whether or not I was a citizen of this country.
It is difficult for me to put into words what it felt like to be surrounded by a community of people- most of whom were not undocumented- who not only recognized the struggle of undocumented students, but thought it was important enough to merit a Democracy 2.0 Award. I was moved to tears when I witnessed the courage and resilience of the other undocumented students at the summit. I left the summit with the knowledge that, despite the grandeur of the obstacles we face, we have so many allies in the struggle.
I am deeply grateful to all the Mobilize.org staff for their hard work and dedication. I want to thank all the funders, speakers and hotel workers who contributed to our experience and made it possible. And I want to give a very special thanks to my peers and colleagues for believing in the work that we do at Educators for Fair Consideration. Thank you for inviting me into your lives and involving me in your struggle.