“Work, study, get ahead” doesn’t apply to students who were brought here illegally as children, writes Dulce Martinez in the San Jose Mercury News. Some of her classmates at Downtown College Prep, the school I write about in Our School, qualify for top universities but don’t qualify for the financial aid they need to attend.
Mayra, a 17-year-old who graduated recently from Downtown College Preparatory in San Jose with top grades, had hopes of going to a four-year university and becoming a lawyer. There is only one problem, which she can’t fix.
She entered the United States illegally when she was 4 years old after her parents determined that if they stayed in Mexico they could all starve. As an undocumented immigrant, she’s ineligible for government financial aid.
. . . Mayra thought that she was as American as anyone.
. . . Perla’s parents smuggled her into America when she was 9. Also a 2007 Downtown College Prep graduate, she has all the qualities universities look for: She participated in student government, passed Advanced Placement classes and tutored struggling students. And yet when it came to applying to a university, she had all doors slammed in her face. “I feel betrayed by the country I call my home,” Perla said.
While Mayra and Perla see themselves as Americans, legally they have no right to be here.
The column, written in a summer journalism workshop, drew jeers from readers who want all illegals deported, writes Dan Greene, of Exponential Curve, a DCP math teacher. But Berkeley’s chancellor agrees that talented students who qualify academically for college should receive aid if they’ve graduated from a California high school and lived five or more years in the U.S. With a college education or not, people brought here as children are going to stay in this country.
Mayra was accepted at a good private university but couldn’t afford to attend, so she’s starting at community college with hopes of transferring after two years. Perla will go to community college then transfer to a California State University school. Their plans are realistic because DCP promises privately funded scholarships for the last two years of college for undocumented graduates who start at community college.
The school also has an “alumni counselor” who helps graduates deal with financial aid or academic problems so they aren’t derailed on the path to a four-year degree. Perhaps marriage counseling should be included: Marrying a citizen is the easiest path to legal status.