Journalist, immigration activist to speak at convocation2 min read

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Rachel Schemel, Web Editor

De Anza College made a statement to undocumented students with the choice of graduation keynote speaker Jose Antonio Vargas, a journalist and undocumented immigration activist.

Vargas said in an interview he plans to thank De Anza for its dedication to undocumented students and to tell students all education can be equal.

De Anza President Brian Murphy will be presenting President’s Awards to two members of the Integral Movement for AB540 Student Success club, Angelica Esquivel and Shaila Ramos.

“First of all, I plan on thanking De Anza for making such a commitment to immigration and helping undocumented students,” Vargas said. “In a time when immigration is at the forefront of conversation, it’s the time De Anza is giving these scholarships to immigration activists.”

The club gives undocumented students a safe place for counseling. “Brian Murphy is a big supporter,” said Ramos, club president. Ramos estimates 1000 undocumented at De Anza College.

One point Vargas plans to convey in his speech is that students can make the most of their education no matter where they are learning.

 “Education is what you make it; you have to be your own institution,” Vargas said. “Your school doesn’t define you education; you define your education.”

Vargas’s continued connection to the Bay Area started in Mountain View, where he attended high school.

Pat Hyland, dean of students at Foothill College, first proposed Vargas as commencement speaker. She was principal of Mountain View High when he attended.

“She was like a second mom to me,” Vargas said.

It was at Mountain View High School Vargas first found out about his immigration status. “For me, when I found out, I was thinking what do I even do with my life, what are my options?” Vargas said. “De Anza and Foothill are both options, good options.”

Hyland, just returning from Vargas’s movie premier in New York on June 24, recalled her relationship with Vargas. “I’m one of his underground railroad for undocumented people,” Hyland said. “I bought him his first computer, his first suit.”

With the difficulties undocumented students have graduating, Vargas encourages students to still move forward with their education and not surrender to stereotypes. “I salute anybody who graduates from college,” Vargas said.

Vargas’s full immigration story in the New York Times: “My life as an undocumented immigrant”