Roxana Herrera, 22, is a fifth-year student at City College double-majoring in Psychology and Political Science. She is the president of the City College Dream Team and a member of the New York State Youth Leadership Council, and is a recipient of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (commonly known as DACA). She aspires to get a PhD focused on mental health and undocumented families and youth.
A recent grant of $90,000 to the New York State Youth Leadership Council supports work to organize Dream Teams on local college campuses that press administrators to adopt policies and provide services that support immigrant students.
“It is incredibly stressful to be an undocumented college student. From the basics, like being able to afford tuition, textbooks, and a Metrocard, to planning a career and life in an uncertain future and hostile political climate. None of it is easy.
I became president of the City College Dream Team because the former leaders graduated, and they needed someone to step up. I did not have prior experience leading a club; this will be my second year as president, and I am still learning. We are identifying issues that impact us, helping build membership, and scheduling meetings with the president of the college to talk about our vision and our needs.
Our Dream Team is creating a resource guide to bridge the lack of support undocumented students receive at City College. It will center and prioritize undocumented students without DACA.
We also would like the school to do its part. For starters, it could create a resource center where information on financial aid, scholarships, fellowships, and internships is available to our community. If we had a center, students could start a lending library for textbooks and hold career and life-planning workshops.
We’d also like the school not to require a Social Security number for setting up basics like email, and to update outdated information on its website reflecting changes brought by the New York State Dream Act.
Mental health service providers on campus also could be better trained. I went in for counseling only to spend the better part of the session explaining to my counselor what DACA is. I never went back.
We are pushed to pursue higher education and are tokenized for our ability to persevere despite the obstacles we encounter. Once we are inside these institutions, our struggle for educational equity is admired. But those who hold up our accomplishments also have the power to ease our struggle at their institutions. Our colleges should recognize us and our ability to promote change by addressing the challenges we face; collaborating directly with undocumented students is the answer.”