By providing undocumented students with access to government documents, counseling, staff and faculty contact information, and campus tools about undocumented student enrollment eligibility, Cuesta College is paving a new road for education.
At the Monarch Dream Center’s home page, Cuesta College offers project information in both English and Spanish. Campus hours, locations, and links to various resources among the school are laid out for its inquirers and readers.
According to the American Immigration Council, as of 2021, there were more than 408,000 undocumented individuals enrolled in U.S. colleges or universities. To put the number into perspective, that is approximately seven football stadiums worth of individuals earning an education.
“Working with undocumented students is very challenging, but it’s very, very rewarding,” said Estella Vazquez, the sole Monarch Dream Center coordinator at Cuesta College. “We offer free immigration legal services, with qualified trainees, and we also offer DACA renewals funding at our campus office.”
According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is an act that was announced in 2012 by the Secretary of Homeland Security. DACA specifies that certain individuals that arrived in the U.S. as minors may request deferred action and work eligibility for two years, with an option to renew. Deferred action is an exercise to defer removal action (deportation) for a period of time; however it does not constitute lawful status.
“We also have a club for our Dreamers at Cuesta College,” Vazquez said. “It is called the Dreamers United Student Club. Monarch Dream students can join and have a community.”
The center also offers bilingual human resources and counseling. According to the United States Census Bureau, 13% of U.S. immigrants did not speak any English in 2014. And according to Linguistic Isolation with the Government of California, more than 40% of Californians speak a language other than English.
After students are enrolled with the Monarch Dream Center, Vazquez walks the prospective student through the campus, the resources, and introduces them to various instructors and campus workers in person.
According to Vazquez, another resource provided at the Monarch Dream Center is bilingual financial aid assistance. Prospective students are provided a thorough walk through, and in depth guidance, for applications and fees.
“The overall goal of the center is to provide a safe and welcoming place for all undocumented students where they can feel welcome and supported,” Vazquez said.