For Eric Cruz Lopez and the other leaders of CT Students for a Dream, the hot and humid days of summer don’t mean long lazy days, rather it offers them yet another opportunity to continue their campaign for immigrant rights.
The statewide youth-led immigrant network is keenly aware that for the so-called Dreamers – to rest is to lose ground – especially with the Trump administration relentlessly conjuring up policies adverse to immigrants such as Cruz Lopez, who was born in Mexico, and others seeking to live in this country, particularly from Latin America.
Cruz Lopez is spending his summer investing in C4D’s ability to have an impact in the future as coordinator of Youth Organizing in Action leadership training programs in four cities for young Dreamers who are committed to making the U.S. their home.
The program is focusing on high school students, Cruz Lopez said, “to give them the power to step up and when they get to college to be powerhouses.”
By the end of August, Cruz Lopez, who came to the U.S. from Mexico as a child and grew up in Bridgeport, hopes that several dozen high school students from immigrant families will be ready to step up to leadership roles in C4D. Moreover, he expects that these youths, many from lower income situations and some who are also non-white, will have acquired the ability “to change the condition in which they live.”
C4D’s six-week leadership training will consist of twice weekly three hour workshops lead by experienced facilitators, including Cruz Lopez. Last year, 20 young people attended a similar program conducted at two sites in southwest Connecticut. This summer there will be workshops in New Haven, Norwalk, Danbury and Hartford and Cruz Lopez projects that 10-15 participants per group is a “good, manageable number.”
The workshops will include field trips, its organizers said, and meals and transportation will be provided.
What Cruz Lopez and C4D will stress is how the immigrant youths can ally with other advocacy organization to create solutions in their schools and communities. To underscore the need for a collective approach, C4D has arranged for its New Haven workshop to be run collaboratively with the Citywide Youth Coalition.
“We want to make sure to recognize what it means to be low-income, to be black, to be Hispanic,” said Cruz Lopez, who has attended the University of Connecticut and wants to eventually complete a master’s degree in math education.
The workshops will also concentrate on networking. C4D wants to create opportunities for youths from immigrant families who have immigrated from a wide array of countries to meet new people with similar experiences and to introduce them to the organizations advocator network, which Cruz Lopez said includes “educators connected to us.”
Cruz Lopez said in early June that exact sites for the workshops are still being have been finalized but added he is looking at public buildings and at universities and immigrant friendly colleges such as Norwalk Community College. “We are seeking places that are easily accessible,” he said. CT Students for a Dream (C4D) will provide transportation and meals with funding derived primarily comes from individual donations and grants, Cruz Lopez said.
Cruz Lopez expects the program to have 11-12 facilitators, at least two at each site. These will be “folks who worked with us in the past on campaigns” as well as C4D leaders, said the program coordinator who plans to help facilitate in Norwalk.
Cruz Lopez said the overall program will utilize about a dozen facilitators, at least two at each site. These will be “folks who worked with us in the past on campaigns” as well as C4D leaders, said the program coordinator who plans to help facilitate in Norwalk.
The Dreamers’ Class of 2018 was assembled using various social media to reach out to potential participants, distributing information to C4D’s after-school programs and via networking with friends and sympathetic educators. There also was a focus on high schools, particularly in the cities where the classes are being held, “DACA or not, we are focusing on immigrant young people who are not documented,” Cruz Lopez said.
The enrollment process, Cruz Lopez said, includes contacting the interested students to determine “who is really committed” and who will complete the program. “We want people who want to build with us,” he said.