Behind the Scenes of Undocumented Student Advocacy

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UC Merced is a Hispanic Serving Institution and has been ranked as the most culturally diverse student body among all of the UC campuses. During the short history of our small campus, we have achieved a lot, yet there is still a lot of work to be done in terms of tending to the needs of undocumented students not only on our campus, but across the UC system as a whole.

Clara Medina Maya, a second year political science and sociology major, discussed her work with undocumented student advocacy. “I’m currently involved with the student advocacy group on campus. It’s called Students Advocating Law & Education. We advocate for student awareness, and we work with the community as well,” said Medina. She currently serves as Outreach Coordinator for S.A.L.E., and next year, she will be UC Merced’s representative for the organization. Students Advocating Law & Education has provided $18,000 in scholarships for UC Merced students this year alone, and this year celebrates its third year as an established organization.

Medina has worked with the California Dream Network, a coalition of community college students. She has also advocated at the state level for the Student Lobby Conference at Sacramento. At the conference, students discussed the increasing cost of education and how to make it more affordable. It is held annually on behalf of the UC Student Association of which there was a delegation of ten students who advocated and lobbied on UC Merced’s behalf and consists of two days of workshops and lobby preparation with legislatures from the state of California. Three bills were presented that spoke of mental health, food/security, and conducting the  campus climate survey every two years instead of every four years. The UC Undocumented Student Coalition then organized the UC Undocumented Student Summit for the following weekend.

In 2013, UC President Janet Napolitano had allocated five million dollars to be distributed according to the needs of each UC school. However, the funds for undocumented students has been decreasing rapidly. Fortunately, the UC Undocumented Student Coalition has advocated for a renewal of funds, and this past week, President Napolitano announced that she is renewing the funds. The recent news is definitely a relief for many students UC-wide.

When asked what she wanted to achieve in terms of her advocacy, Medina replied, “Starting dialogue on campus and contributing to culture of empowerment that we can pave on our campus and continuing to advocate for our campus.”

Photo Credit: Diana Diaz-Noriega, Brenda Gutierrez, Yazmin Lopez, Clara Medina Maya

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