Immigrant student youth event: “We are all one person”

Alena Naiden, Chau Nguyen, Staff Writer

De Anza College students and faculty united at the DREAM Summit event May 15 to be empowered by immigrants
like themselves.

De Anza’s Higher Education for AB540 Students program hosted three free workshops and invited several speakers to educate visitors about possibilities for people without residency status or visas.

Keynote speaker Yosimar Reyes discussed issues faced by gay and working class immigrants living in the U.S. illegally.
He shared his struggles and what he had to overcome to become the activist and award-winning poet he is now.

Reyes urged listeners to utilize their narratives, saying that people who discuss immigration in media portray a limited perspective.

Photo Credit: Alena Naiden
Sisters Maily Ramos (left) and Shania Ramos (right) lead a workshop at the DREAM Summit event May 15 at De Anza College.

“We have the power to tell our own stories,” Reyes said. “Nobody can tell them better than us.”

Students learned about programs for immigrant youth and spoke about their hardships, hopes and achievements, comforting and encouraging each other throughout.

Jesus Rivera, 19, computer science and history major, said he was ready to commit suicide after being bullied for his illegal status in high school.

Rivera said he got depressed after bad experiences and stopped speaking about his immigrant status out of fear.

“But I’m not afraid anymore,” Rivera said. He explained that support from the Higher Education for AB540 Students program and his goal of setting an example for his sister motivate him to move forward.

Gabriel Manrique, 34, who is pursuing his master’s degree in applied anthropology at San Jose State University, said he had to work two full-time jobs to support his family while he was a full-time student.

When he was in school nobody believed he had a future, he said.

“We can prove them wrong,” Manrique told event attendees. “They might take anything away from you but knowledge.”

At the end of the event, speaker Shania Ramos, 24, a UC Santa Cruz student, asked event attendees to stand if they were first generation college students or if their family could be deported at any time. A majority of attendees stood.

College council attempts to change De Anza. It felt empowering, like everyone in the room was connected, said Juan Meneduz, 24, business major.
“We were all one person,” Meneduz said.

Most student attendees were Latin Americans who personally experienced hardships as undocumented immigrants.

Rivera said he hopes people will spread the message about educational opportunities for undocumented people who do not know
their potential.