First-year student and DACA recipient fights oppression with civic action and resiliency

ASU engineering major Angel Palazuelos advocates for himself and other Dreamers

October 1, 2020

It was during Angel Palazuelos’ first year of high school that he realized his life wasn’t the same as his friends’ and peers.’ Born in Culiacán, Mexico, Palazuelos arrived in the United States with his mother and brother on a tourist visa in 2006 and has lived in the Valley ever since.

He graduated from Metro Tech High School in Phoenix, but facing the realities of college applications as an undocumented student, Palazuelos saw how many doors were closed to him, including public scholarships and in-state tuition. ASU student Angel Palazuelos ASU biomedical engineering major Angel Palazuelos. Download Full Image

“That was when I kind of began to see that I was different, that although my peers and I shared the same morals and grew up together, read the same books, we were different, and I was going to experience hardships that they wouldn't,” he said. 

Yet one of Palazuelos’ biggest goals was to go to college. He is now studying engineering in his first year at Arizona State University; he has spent the last several years building community among undocumented students and wants to make sure the students coming up after him know they should set big goals for their education and their lives — and that they’re not alone.  

As a young kid, Palazuelos’ mom talked with him about what would happen if they got in trouble, even something as commonplace as a fender bender. He said that it was a heavy burden to know they could be taken away from their home at any second and that to a lot of people, he wasn't truly American. It was isolating.  

“It felt like I was the only one going through it; it felt like I was alone, that the world chose me specifically,” he said.  

Eventually, Palazuelos realized that he wasn’t the only one going through it, that there were other people experiencing what he was experiencing. During his junior year of high school, Palazuelos got involved with Puente Human Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union and Aliento to build hope and progress. 

Palazuelos started showing seniors and other undocumented students how to apply for scholarships while he was applying with his friends. He began to organize events for Aliento and addressed Dreamers all over the country as a speaker at Aliento’s virtual commencement for undocumented graduates. Working with Puente, Palazuelos helped start a petition to get school resource officers off campuses in his school district because of concerns about how students were being treated, and he has led demonstrations at the Phoenix Police Department and the ICE detention center, among other civic actions. 

During his work with these organizations, Palazuelos learned about all the various laws that limit undocumented students, and he began to feel very passionate about advocating for DACA (Deferred Action for Early Childhood Arrivals) recipients, not only because it affected him but because it affected his peers as well. 

“The system is the one we need to dismantle. That’s why we need to fight these little battles,” he said. 

Since Palazuelos has lived in uncertainty all his life, he said he can better cope with it now. Despite this, trauma still follows him around because his immigration status means he doesn’t have any guarantees about being able to stay in the place he calls home or even his employability after graduation. He doesn’t know what will happen next. 

“There are a lot of pieces of the puzzle, and if one piece is to go missing, it could potentially leave me lost on my college journey,” he said.

Scholarships made it possible for him to pursue his undergraduate degree starting this fall. Despite the adversity Palazuelos has faced, he is hopeful and tries to stay optimistic. Palazuelos hopes that the legislature will pass a law for Dreamers. He feels hopeful for his future as a college student at ASU, and he feels grateful for all the opportunities he has had so far and plans to plug in to the student advocacy community at ASU. (In addition to Undocumented Students for Education Equity and the Aliento student organization, ASU’s DREAMzone offers peer-to-peer support for undocumented students, DACA recipients and students with families of mixed immigration status.)

Palazuelos’ goals are to work as an engineer, get his work visa and green card someday, continue with community organizing and eventually start his own scholarship and his own organization and go to law school. 

For other undocumented students, Palazuelos’ advice is that they should just remain hopeful. They may need to work 10 times as hard, he said, but if they find their passion, that will drive them to their end goal.

“Know that it’ll all eventually be worth it,” he said. 

Written by Austin Davis, Sun Devil Storyteller. Reporting by Hannah Moulton Belec, EOSS Marketing

Hannah Moulton Belec

Digital marketing manager, Educational Outreach and Student Services


ASU, Lane College create blueprint for student-led collaboration

Students in the ASU Luminosity Lab partner with historically Black college to transform unused land into a thriving hub for innovation

October 1, 2020

Five states and 1,500 miles separate students at Lane College, a historically Black college of approximately 2,200 students in Jackson, Tennessee, and the 120,000 students across Arizona State University’s multiple campuses. 

Despite their differences in size and location, however, both institutions share common values of innovation, student empowerment and fostering the well-being of their local communities.  Download Full Image

In support of these values, Lane College is collaborating with the Luminosity Lab, an ASU student-led think tank that spearheads challenges for clients in industry, academia and government, to build a community hub for student-driven innovation.

The project will transform a plot of land adjacent to Lane College from an old, vacant gas station to a formal part of the campus. The land was designated as an Opportunity Zone, acquired by the school through a national development program that encourages long-term investments in low-income areas to bolster local economies. 

During a visit to Luminosity Lab last year, Logan Hampton, the president of Lane College, was inspired by the interdisciplinary, collaborative and student-driven nature of the lab. Wanting to create a space to foster a similar initiative at Lane College, Hampton naturally turned to students to design, create and execute his vision.

Mark Naufel, executive director of Luminosity Lab, sees the collaboration between campuses as a model for spreading innovation and student impact to institutions across the country.

“After four years as a lab, we've proven this concept that if you give the students agency, they can really produce any type of innovation. And this doesn’t have to exist at just one institution,” Naufel said. “Our dream at Luminosity is to see this model of innovation that we've piloted and perfected here at ASU expand to other institutions.”

Carrying on the spirit of innovation

Greg Emery, Innovation Scholar-in-Residence at Lane College, is leading the collaboration alongside Ally Shott, an ASU architecture student and project lead at the Luminosity Lab. 

“Creating this space would completely transform our college,” said Emery, who is also an ASU alumnus. “We are taking it from being isolated from the rest of the city to being a go-to place, allowing students the benefits of a small, private college while having access to services, entertainment and job opportunities that you would find throughout most bigger colleges.”

The development will include meeting rooms, entrepreneurial spaces, advising resources and local business storefront spaces to enable these opportunities for students and community members. 

“I have been using what I learned at ASU and how I learned it continuously throughout my career to educate students about how to become successful innovators and entrepreneurs,” Emery said. “The approach at ASU has always been forward-thinking. Myself and my colleagues here at Lane are quite proud to work with ASU because of that mindset.”

For Shott, this was a unique opportunity to pioneer a project in her field of study and build her architectural career portfolio. Having never worked on an architecture project with the Luminosity Lab before, Shott had to lean into the knowledge from her coursework and take on a leadership role. 

“Ally is an incredible student and individual. She's someone that's loved by everyone in the lab and has really made great contributions to the design team,” Naufel said. “To see her step up on this project and demonstrate leadership both with the students here in our lab, and for the students and faculty she worked with at Lane College, made us really proud.”

Video courtesy of ASU Research. 

Students give perspective, gain opportunity

The collaboration provided an opportunity for students to contribute to their universities and gain valuable experience. Lane College students Tomiah Burrow, Emari Brown, Dezmond Jameson, Javonte Mahone, Andre McBride and Azaria Underwood contributed to the project as part of an entrepreneurship course aimed at offering hands-on experience with project management and business interaction. They met with Shott each week to share their visions for the space and their wants and needs as students. 

“It was very cool to talk to each of the students and get to know what their college life and experience is like,” Shott said. “I wanted to know how their experience is lacking and how my design and this development could make their lives better.”

According to Emery, a majority of Lane College’s students are first-generation college students from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds. It was important to give students a voice in the process and the opportunity to gain experience collaborating on a major project. 

Though the collaboration between Lane College and ASU is years in the making, the goal of fostering opportunity and resilience in Black education spaces has never been so timely, according to Naufel.  

“At Luminosity we've always had a diverse group of students. But it’s also really important that we can partner with a historically Black institution like Lane College, and bring that perspective to our students,” he said. “The hope is that we would have this type of engagement with historically Black and other minority institutions as a priority at universities across the country.”

Building room for future projects

For the Luminosity Lab, the Lane College project’s success is a catalyst to pursue additional development projects and intercollegiate collaborations. 

“At Luminosity our mission is to see how many students we can engage throughout the globe,” Naufel said. “This is an entry point for increasing the amount of students we have engaged. We will be able to take on not just bigger projects, but more projects with an even wider audience of discipline types, and expand the partners we have.”

“We will definitely be taking on more architectural projects, because working on this project introduced me to the concept of Opportunity Zones and how they can solve big problems in underserved communities,” Shott said. “These are big problems that I think Luminosity Lab has yet to really delve into. For the future, I'd love to see us work together on large-scale development projects to better our communities at a global level.”

Are you a student looking for hands-on experience? Is your organization interested in partnering with student teams? Visit the Luminosity Lab to learn more.

Written by Maya Shrikant