Program Helps Immigrant Youth Access College


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Mentors and Students in the CT Students for a DREAM College Access Program

The CT Students for a DREAM have expanded their efforts to provide access to higher education for young immigrants by creating a mentoring program.   Their goal, they say, is to ensure that immigration status is not a barrier to higher education. Currently, only 5 percent of undocumented immigrant students go on to any type of college.
The program partners mentors with young immigrant students. The first commencement ceremony for this new class of mentors who received a certificate for having completed the training was held recently with family members, community leaders and elected officials attending.
The C4D College Mentoring Program class of 2013-2014 includes 17 trained college mentors, who will be matched up with 18 high school students from all over the state: Norwalk, Stamford, Danbury, Hartford, Bridgeport, Vernon, Manchester and more.
The CT Students for a DREAM College Mentoring Program offers individual peer-to-peer college counseling to any student who needs guidance in the college and scholarship application process. The program matches the student with a C4D mentor who will empower the student in their personal and academic lives and helps them achieve their full potential.
Among the speakers at the commencement program, past mentor Lilibeth Tapia, 21, of Bridgeport, said, “I wanted to be a mentor because I know how difficult it is for an undocumented student to apply to schools and get resources. I have cousins in my family that stopped their education after high school because they thought they couldn’t go to college and there was no one really pushing them.”
The program is open to middle school graduates, current high school students and high school graduates, regardless of status. Once students are enrolled and matched up with a mentor for the school year, each mentor and mentee attends a retreat, which will help develop, build and strengthen their self through self-assessment and team-building activities both mental and physical.
During the ceremony, Ligia Marroquin, immigration and Hispanic outreach coordinator from U.S. Rep Jim Himes’ office, talked about the importance of immigrant reaching higher education:
“I was born in Guatemala and was one of the first to attend college in my family. My mother was a housekeeper in Darien and Norwalk, and my father was an electrician. My parents instilled in me the importance of an education. However, when it came time to apply for college, I had to figure things out on my own.  Having a mentoring program, like the one provided by CT Students for a DREAM, is an invaluable part of the process.”
State Sen. Andres Ayala, D- Bridgeport, who also spoke touched upon the importance of the CT Dream Act in making college more affordable for undocumented student. He stressed  that the next step is to open up institutional financial aid for undocumented students in Connecticut. He reaffirmed his commitment to continuing to work on the state level for policies that will benefit immigrant families achieve higher education.
Connecticut Students for a DREAM is a statewide organization of DREAMers and allies who seek to empower undocumented students and their families by advocating for their rights and raising awareness about the issues they face. This statewide network of DREAMers and allies seeks to accomplish three main goals: empower, educate, advocate.
Applications for mentors and students are still being accepted for the program, interested students and potential mentors should contact Mentor Coordinator Elizabeth.Ruiz@ct4adream.or 203-858-0871.