Blacksburg, Va., April 19 - EXECUTIVE MEETING: Juan Osvaldo de la Rosa Diaz is discussing with several other executive board members about their recent fundraising endeavors. "Just having that sense of community where undocumented students can interact with others who share their life experiences and share the values that they hold; it really does make a difference to make these students feel welcomed here," said de la Rosa Diaz.  Photograph: Ricky Lam.

Forever dreamers

Discovering one Tech organization's efforts in providing a voice for undocumented students.

Ricky Lam - April 23, 2017

     Every week, an executive board consisting of eight students come together to discuss ways to push for immigration reform at Virginia Tech.

     “One of the things that I wanted to do was put Tech DREAMers on the map. That really required me to go out and be vocal on what I was doing,” said Juan Osvaldo de la Rosa Diaz, the founder of the organization. “From that process, I found allies who may not have necessarily been undocumented, but saw the importance of the cause – ever since then we've only grown.”

     According to the American Immigration Council, approximately 65,000 undocumented students graduate high school but are unable to pursue a higher education. As stated by CollegeBoard, another obstacle is that undocumented immigrants are given in-state tuition through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (D.A.C.A.) program, but are ineligible for state or federal financial aid.

     “For someone that doesn't have that familiarity and doesn't have family members that have gone through college, they lack a familiarity with the institutions and the institutional knowledge that allows them to be able to go through this process without any challenges,” de la Rosa Diaz said.

     Tech DREAMers made efforts in remedying these problems for undocumented students aspiring to get a college degree.

     “Having an admissions page for D.A.C.A. students has been one of the ways that we've really focused on eliminating those barriers,” de la Rosa Diaz said.

     The organization’s efforts have been widely renowned throughout the institution.

     “We're nominated this semester for the University Leadership Award for Outstanding Achievement by an Organization,” de la Rosa Diaz said. “We don't really focus on awards but it's nice to have the successes that we've been able to have recognized.”

     The organization hopes to continue its mission by promoting a more inclusive environment for undocumented immigrants.

     “As students at four year institutions, we have a lot of privileges and access to a lot of resources,” de la Rosa Diaz said. “We have to re-examine how is it that we're utilizing those resources, because I think we're doing a disservice to the communities that we are a part of if we're not linking the two together.”

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