Peralta Community College District's Only Student-Run Publication
Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

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    ‘Safe space’ sought for undocumented

    By Michelle Snider

    Peralta Counselor Saba Gebre reads a statement at the Undocumented Student Services Summit at the Peralta district offices March 26. (Photo by Michelle Snider)

    Peralta faculty, staff, administrators, and students brainstormed improvement measures to create a “safe space” environment for undocumented students during the Undocumented Students Services Summit March 26 at the district office.

    BCC student Carolina Martinez co-facilitated the event with district counselors Saba Gebre and Gabriel Martinez. All participants provided roundtable discussion and input on what has been effective and what in the district needs improvement. The meeting notes will be accumulated in a document for Chancellor Jowel Laguerre and his team.

    Gabriel started the summit with welcoming remarks to the roughly 35 in attendance. “It’s important we have these discussions at the district level so we can have actual action,” he said.

    He explained that there are many types of undocumented students. Some meet certain exemptions — such as an AB 540 exemption, which allows some nonresidents to pay in-state fees rather than nonresident supplemental tuition.

    Undocumented students at Peralta have various residential statuses — political asylum, DACA, TPS, VISA U & T and VISA.

    There are mixed-status families — cases when a student may be documented but their family is not, and they have concerns about their family’s status(es). Some students who stay past their VISA expirations are avoiding danger awaiting them in their home country.

    “Several people stated concerns about students who’ve shared their stories.”

    In some cases, their family has moved, so they do not have a home to return to.

    Faculty members emphasized the importance of creating a safe space on campuses for students. Several people stated concerns about students who come to them to share their stories. “It is crucial not to probe the student too much,” someone suggested. One faculty member insisted that colleagues listen to and humanize students’ stories beyond documented status.

    Another concern brought up by faculty was transparency from the district in informing all students that the data they provide to the district will be protected under the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).

    The faculty also discussed strategies in serving undocumented students. The approaches included hiring tutors, researching to provide proper assistance, creating writing workshops, emergency aid, and employment assistance for DACA students.

    Peralta District Financial Aid Director Dave Nguyen confirmed that the Peralta District has given an estimated $2.3 million in aid to official residency status students.

    The funds include $1.9 million in tuition waivers and $383,493 in grants and scholarships from enrollment period summer 2015 — spring 2018.

    A Peralta student club called A.S.P.I.R.A. provides financial aid assistance and has fundraisers and donations supplied for scholarships.

    So far they have given scholarships to three students, two of whom were undocumented.

    The challenges brought up in the group discussions were for more safe spaces for undocumented students, at least one at each campus. So far, there is only one room dedicated to undocumented students, located at Berkeley City College.

    Another idea proposed was more training for educators, faculty, staff, and students regarding undocumented students’ rights and the complicated laws and forms involved with getting students financial aid and transferred into higher learning institutions.

    Other suggestions included hiring student allies to connect with those too intimidated to approach faculty.


    Michelle Snider is a writer for The Laney Tower

    About the Contributor
    In the fall of 2019, The Laney Tower rebranded as The Citizen and launched a new website. These stories were ported over from the old Laney Tower website, but byline metadata was lost in the port. However, many of these stories credit the authors in the text of the story. Some articles may also suffer from formatting issues. Future archival efforts may fix these issues.  
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