College can be a challenging time for any student. Balancing classes, extracurriculars, work and other activities is a difficult task. But for students who are undocumented or recipients of DACA (the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program), that balancing act can be even more challenging.
That’s why Arizona State University has a program called DREAMzone. DREAMzone provides biweekly support circles for DACA recipients, undocumented students and students from mixed immigration status families. Additionally, DREAMzone staff is available to talk with students or staff members who have questions regarding resources for students. DREAMzone also educates ASU staff, faculty and community members about DACA and undocumented students and how to support them.
For students with uncertain immigration status, the support circles are a necessary and valued safe space to share their experiences and connect with other students who are in similar situations.
“Once I found DREAMzone, I feel like I was really able to open up and feel confident in that part of myself,” said Maria Sanchez Salcido, a recent graduate in biochemistry and psychology.
Sanchez Salcido, a DACA recipient who grew up in Tucson, said she feels lucky to have been at ASU thanks to the Dream.US scholarship, but she still had her guard up on campus because she never knew how much information she should share about her immigration status.
She struggled to find scholarships and a school that would work with her after she graduated from high school in 2015. Despite the struggle, she said that having to scramble to make college a reality taught her to persevere.
“I’ve met a lot of great people in the DACA community who really inspire me to be better. It’s just taught me hard work,” she said.
Once she found out about DREAMzone, Sanchez Salcido said she felt like she could finally open up and know that she is “enough.”
“They helped me believe that being a DACA student can be a good thing and I should just own it,” she said.
Sanchez Salcido started attending DREAMzone support circles in January 2019. She said that the circles provide a space to “share your stories” and build a network of support.
“I’ve made such genuine friendships that I didn’t know were possible to make, given the context of my situation,” Sanchez Salcido said.
DACA and undocumented students can face financial barriers and a lot of stress, said Carlos Yanez Navarro, a support specialist at DREAMzone and a DACA student himself.
He said that being a DACA or undocumented student can be “very isolating” and that because people don’t reveal their immigration statuses often, DACA and undocumented students can “sometimes feel alone because we don’t know a lot of other students (in similar situations).”
Yanez Navarro, also a Dream.US scholarship recipient, arrived in Arizona from Chihuahua, Mexico, at age 6 and is studying transborder studies at ASU.
For Yanez Navarro, DREAMzone has helped him personally and provided an opportunity for him to help other students in his position.
“I really do not feel so alone anymore,” Yanez Navarro said. “I am so grateful to DREAMzone for helping me feel comfortable at the university and to feel like I am part of the community here.”
Are you a DACA recipient or undocumented student at ASU or want to learn more about DREAMzone? Check out the DREAMzone open house on Sept. 25 at 3:30 p.m. in the Student Services Amphitheater on ASU’s Tempe campus to find out about DREAMzone support circles, office hours and other resources to support you.
Faculty and staff interested in hosting a DREAMzone training to raise awareness about resources available to ASU students should contact DREAMzone@asu.edu.
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