The event started with a screening of The Dream is Now, a thought provoking documentary that follows the lives of multiple undocumented students. The production showcases the struggles that young people and their families face, mainly in regards to the education system in America.
For the second time at Armstrong, undocumented students shared their stories, highlighting one of the many issues that they face pursuing higher education.
Even though these students have lived in the state for a majority of their young lives and attended high school here, under current legislation they still must pay out of state tuition.
Student Daniela Rodriguez came to the U.S. when she was thirteen years old. “My mother came and left everything she had in Mexico for me,” Rodriguez said. While she was still learning English, she passed the math and science portions of the standardized Criterion-Referenced Competency Test (CRCT) test in middle school, later enrolling in advanced placement high school classes. “My struggle is not going to dehumanize me,” she said. “I don’t know what struggles I’m going to go through tomorrow, but I’m here to make a difference.”
Sophomore physics major, Emmanuel Diaz, explained that his family came to the U.S. from Mexico when he was two years old. He attended school in Georgia and earned a math scholarship to go to Armstrong. “I never had the courage to tell anyone from my high school that I was undocumented,” Diaz said. “I knew they thought undocumented people deserve to be deported on site and were a nuisance.”
Upon meeting Armstrong students Rolando Zenteno and Yair Munoz as well as discovering Savannah Undocumented Youth Alliance, he decided that he didn’t want to sit on the sidelines and keep quiet about his situation. “Some say we may not have a right to have an education here in the U.S., but we all deserve to choose how we live,” Diaz said. “I’m not going to give up just because someone waves a finger in my face and says no, not you.”
After the undocumented student discussion panel, members of Savannah Undocumented Youth Alliance informed attendees on the group’s mission, ways to get involved, and opened the floor to any questions. SUYA’s purpose is to empower undocumented students and people within the community to host events such as this one. The student-led organization goes out into the community to tell their stories to anyone that will listen. “We want people to care and get involved,” junior biology major Yair Munoz said. “Let me know your struggles, I care as well. That’s what community is all about.”
SUYA recently lobbied at the state capitol in favor of in state tuition for undocumented students. Members stressed the importance of staying informed on current issues that involve students all throughout Georgia. Contacting local representatives and sharing information with friends are small yet crucial steps toward raising discussions and deciding what is best for our nation.