Without Borders: Expanding Study Abroad Opportunities for DACAmented Students

This summer I had the opportunity to return to my Alma matter, the University of California Berkeley to intern with the Undocumented Student Program (USP). USP is one of the first and few programs in California and across the country dedicated entirely to provide holistic services and programs for undocumented students- who were mostly brought to the US at very early ages by their parents- . Not only does USP provide academic counseling, legal support, financial aid resources and an extensive campus referral network but it also strives to increase the access and retention of this student population in higher education, by forming partnerships with administrative, academic and student affairs offices across the university and local organizations.

My interest to support and work with this student population developed on the second year of my Student Affairs Administration and Public Administration dual Masters programs, as I focused most of my academic assignments, research and presentations on the unique needs and challenges faced by undocumented students. Through my research, I have learned that most undocumented students have high academic performance, high civic engagement in their communities, and while most people erroneously see undocumented students as a monolithic group, they actually come from a wide array of geographical areas and ethnicities. The diversity of this student population is not only reflected on their ethnicities but also on their identities which intersect, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, academic performance, and others. Furthermore, in addition to the challenges faced by regular college students as they navigate through institutions of higher education, undocumented students find themselves in unique circumstances that add challenges to their academic and professional journeys, such as, living in constant fear of being deported or having family members deported, higher levels of stress and anxiety, lack of resources to finance their education, social stigma and others.

Even though I was becoming an informed scholar and future professional through my research on undocumented students, I felt that my research was not doing anything to help them, for this reason I decided to use my internship to work on practical projects that would help and benefit this student population. Thus, after a couple of talks with USP’s Director, Meng So, I was offered the opportunity to intern with USP, becoming their first intern for the program. The main project for my internship was to write a grant proposal to apply for a grant from the University of California Education Abroad Program that seeks to increase the participation of historically underrepresented groups in study abroad programs. Prior to the implementation of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)- a legislation that provides discretionary and temporary relief from deportation to qualifying individuals, along with an employment authorization- undocumented students were excluded from study abroad programs due to their legal status. The opportunity to study abroad was expanded to include DACAmented (DACA recipients) students three years ago through Advance Parole, an administrative practice that allows DACAmented students to re-entry the country after temporary travel for humanitarian, educational or employment purposes. Our proposal seeks to increase the institutional knowledge and cultural competency of the main stakeholders involved on the study abroad process, such as the study abroad office, financial aid, academic advisors and students. USP’s goal is to use the grant to hire a graduate assistant to conduct research, collect quantitative and qualitative data and to develop informational materials to increase awareness about DACA, Advance Parole and study abroad opportunities for DACAmented students.

My other project with USP was to develop informational materials. I was in charge of designing infographics to inform undocumented students about the opportunities and resources available to study abroad and about the Advance Parole application process. Additionally, I used quantitative data collected by USP to develop a report that visually shows the demographics of the students being served by USP, which will be used when presenting and talking about USP to different stakeholders.

Being able to intern with USP was a great opportunity because not only did I learned a lot about undocumented students, DACA, Advance Parole and USP’s efforts to support this student population but I was also able to gain new skills such as grant writing and turning quantitative and qualitative data into easier to read and understand infographics. Furthermore, working for USP gave me the opportunity to put theory from the MPA and the MSAA into practice, such as having a better understanding of Cal’s organizational structure and undocumented students developmental needs and being able to collaborate across different offices and departments. Additionally, I was able to enjoy California’s beautiful weather while catching up with old friends, trying new restaurants in Berkeley, Oakland and San Francisco, biking across the Golden Gate Bridge, running around the Bay or simply walking around campus.

Lastly, I want to send a special thank you to the UC Berkeley Study Abroad Office with whom I closely collaborated on both the grant proposal and the study abroad infographic.

Eduardo Huerta

Dual Master’s Candidate, Student Affairs & Public Administration

State University of New York Binghamton

MPA-GSO Treasurer


The Broome County Promise Zone model: A Community and University Strategy

What do you get when you combine limited funding for full-time staff, college students searching for meaningful learning opportunities, and public schools facing increasing demands and budget constraints? A recipe for success to build a foundation on which to build a county-wide, university-assisted community school model! That is exactly the ingredients we used to build our model of service through Broome County Promise Zone where we take the privilege of connecting Binghamton University students to the important work we are doing with public schools in Broome County to meet the needs of children and their families.

I recently heard a speaker say that education is “like climbing a hill”. A quality education pushes students to achieve their academic and personal goals even when it feels like an uphill climb. Unfortunately, for many of students this hill can feel more like a mountain that seems impossible to climb. Although the aspiration may be the same, the mountain seems daunting and the hope of success a far off dream. Motivation soon dwindles and academic achievement seems like something for everyone else.

A community school brings the necessary tools for all students and their families together in the school to provide support and access that help to balance the challenges poverty and life barriers can bring. Optimizing access allows children to plan their life “around choice rather than circumstance” and gives families the support needed to help them become engaged and active in making choices rather than succumbing to defeat allowing circumstances to take the lead. Rather than perpetuating the intergenerational cycle of poverty, community schools help to align resources in the community and make the school a hub where educational, physical, emotional, and social needs are met. This shift can provide more options for success in work, school, and life. As the saying goes, “it take a village to raise a child”, we know it takes a community school to bring true equity and access to all students.

At Broome County Promise Zone we feel that the use of enthusiastic college students to infuse resources into schools and our agency makes perfect sense. Not only do our college interns bring new ideas and needed support to our public schools, they also provide a view on the work that helps a hard job stay fresh and new. The college students report a learning experience that could not happen in the classroom and a new appreciation for understanding cultural competency, intergenerational trauma, and systems change that has a lasting effect to be carried into their future life and careers. College interns not only serve to meet needed adult support for professional staff, they also serve as role models and mentors to our young participants as well as educators and advisers to their families.

What started as a logical placement for master level social work students as part of a required field placement has expanded to include undergraduate students across disciplines using passion and expertise in the prescribed field to further the work under Broome County Promise Zone. In addition to providing academic support and serving as mentors and role models, you might find a computer engineer helping us to build and implement a website design or one nursing student educating urban young people about asthma and ways to control symptoms while another educates parents about diabetes in a rural setting. Perhaps you might witness a student studying business and management working on a plan for marketing and branding our name so that our community knows and understands the work we are doing. Regardless of the area of interest, we work to fit future life goals to the assigned internship. With 40 – 60 interns a semester, there is plenty of opportunity to serve and even more opportunities to learn and grow together as we work to expand limited resources to maximum capacity while embedding the aspiration of educational experiences with the exciting opportunity to make a difference.

Luann Kida MA, LMSW, Community Schools Director

Broome County Promise Zone, Binghamton University, College of Community & Public Affairs