Several months ago, I became involved with Mobilize.org through one of the CA MeetUps. This MeetUp was not only vital to my college career and future in the field of Communications Studies, but also taught me one of my fundamental beliefs today. Over the course of this quarter, I have learned more from my peers and their personal stories than imaginable in the classroom setting. I learned about them, their trials and tribulations, about the lessons learned, but most importantly, I learned a lot about myself. My most recent teachers were the student leaders of IMASS at De Anza College, Angie Esquivel, IMASS Treasurer and Oraly Heraz, Chair of Outreach. We sat down for a conversation about AB540, their personal involvement, and how to persevere through the roller coasters of life.
To give everyone a little bit of background and information about Integral Movement for AB540 Student Success; they are a group that has been started on the De Anza campus to create a supportive, friendly environment for AB540, or undocumented, students.
IMASS provides resources to AB540 students as well as a valuable support network while encouraging community involvement and academic success as well as raising awareness regarding AB540 and the Dream Act. IMASS also helps high school undocumented students take their placement tests and fill out the AB540 form. This friendly, excited group grabbed my attention right away.
When I sat down with Angie and Oraly, months after AB540 Awareness Week, the friendly vibe of the group was just as I remembered. We started with discussing basic things such as their official titles of IMASS and what their responsibilities were for those mentioned tasks. As I said above, IMASS reaches out to high school students and informs them of their available resources. This past year, Oraly was in charge of this specific aspect of the organization. As Chair of Outreach, Oraly was responsible for scheduling the presentations at the high school, presenting them, and organizing exchange of information between IMASS and the high school students.
This year, as Treasurer President, Angie helped organize many aspects of AB540 Awareness Week. She described AB540 Awareness Week much differently than I had expected. With a limited amount of members, Angie found it difficult to organize the event similar to the year before. Each member of IMASS was delegated a day that they would be in charge of designing and executing. As a team, IMASS was able to provide a successful, educational event that appeared well planned and professional. What did they learn from it all? Angie said, “what we learned was when we set a date, there’s a little bit of like, space to push it forward or back. But once you do, stick with it, like no matter what happens. If it’s, like, halfway done, you tried, and at least you have that.”
As the conversation evolved, we began to talk about things a little deeper than the daily activities of the organization and its members. I asked how they handle problems such as loosing members or other hurdles in their lives. A common aspect between the two seemed to be cohesion.
The two members call IMASS their family and say that a support system is the best way to get through the ups and downs of life. Both Angie and Oraly shared with me their heartbreaking experience of navigating all of the Nursing Program prerequisites only to discover that they would not be able to attend the program due to their status.
Oraly said, “At that moment was when all my goals and dreams were shattered.” Angie informed me that in order to participate in the necessary clinical hours, a background check is required, and therefore a social security number. After already getting into college after told otherwise and overcoming the trials of being an undocumented student, they were thrown another curve ball.
How did they overcome this? The two said the support of IMASS and their families have gotten them through this and many other problems. After Oraly was told by her high school friends that she couldn’t attend college because of her status, she says that, “college was just out of the picture.” She said that she planned on just working after she graduated high school. When her parents became aware of this idea, they were curious as to why she no longer had the goal of attending college.
After she told them what her friends said, they encouraged her to seek out more information from her teachers and counselors. As she did so, she was pleasantly surprised that she was able to attend college at an affordable price. Oraly says that she would never be where she is today without the support of her family and their willingness to guide her through her struggles. With the support from both families, Oraly and Angie are able to push through what Oraly described as, “…ups and downs, times where I’ve lost hope.”
I’ve discussed what I learned about each of these amazing student leaders, but what have I learned about myself? What am I taking away from this? From each of my encounters from this club, I have learned the true power of storytelling and the importance of my own story. Angie and Oraly use their stories on a regular basis to not only benefit other undocumented students, but to use their stories as a means of strength. When facing times of adversity, such as the Dream Act not passing, Oraly said that the organization comes together and tells their stories. She said that telling their stories of coming to America brings them strength and renews their passion. I’ve often wonder what story I might tell or what contribution I might make. I’m not quite sure yet, but I’m know that with the support of my family and other networks, I will soon be able to make a change, just like IMASS.