‘UndocuWelcome’ orientation holds workshops, outreach

Nathalia Moran, Staff Reporter

Undocumented students chanted, “We’re here and we’ve got this” at the De Anza College second annual “UndocuWelcome Orientation” on Sept. 12 and 13, in an indigenous blessing ceremony to respect the native land being stood on.

Undocumented students and families were invited to participate in workshops and learn tips on how to navigate college in relation to their immigrant status. 

The event was a collaboration between Higher Education for AB 540 Students, Vasconcellos Institute for Democracy in Action and the Office of Equity.

The orientation gave the opportunity for students to bond over shared experiences and a sense of unity on campus.

The gathering of the students also alleviated a feeling of displacement some felt previously before having attended UndocuWelcome.

Juan Rodriguez, 19, music major, said the event made him feel empowered.

“People think [undocumented students] are in the way, when really, [they] are the solution,” he said.

The orientation was created as a result of animosity toward undocumented citizens nationally, and the environment that may create on campus.

Angelica Esquivel, 27, program coordinator, said the committee asked themselves how to make students feel like they’re welcome.

The event began on Thursday with a reception, where families learned how to become involved in their children’s or partner’s education to encourage success.

The reception included dinner, a panel of students and alumni and cultural performances.

Friday’s orientation aimed to be more student-focused and started with breakfast.

The workshops covered general topics for college students: how to access financial aid, what resources are available for students and how to plan ahead in college and life.

The UndocuWelcome orientation held events to teach students about college life but did not deny them a chance to connect with their own personal narratives and cultural identities.

“They’re not just undocumented students, but outside [in] the world, they’re still undocumented and it’s a scary thing out there,” said a student volunteer, 20, biology major.

The program also held a workshop focusing on intergenerational healing through a small art project. 

Students made trees in which the various parts of the tree represented different parts of their lives. 

The roots were their support system, the lower branches were their hardships and the highest branches were their future dreams for themselves. 

The students’ undocumented status denotes their residency status and encapsulates the familial trauma shared in the process of making the journey to America.

In creating their trees, each student focused on themselves and their aspirations, gaining both a sense of clarity and a coping skill.

Edgar Leon, 21, sociology major, said he gained confidence through the event and the art project, where he felt supported.

“[The community is] here to help you. You just need to go out there and say ‘Hey, I need help,’” he said.

Students went on a campus tour to familiarize themselves with De Anza. 

The day ended with a reflection on what had been learned and gained through their experience. 

“Today, I learned that I’m not alone,” Leon said. “There’s a bunch of people like me. And there’s people that are citizens that want to help us.”