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Real Faces of Undocumented Students

  • Communications
  • May 18, 2017

Nancy a DACA studentLast year, Nancy visited the Harper College Educational Foundation offices with a question. "My tuition is due tomorrow, as is my rent. I can only afford to pay one of the bills. Can you help me?" Nancy, an honors student with only one semester to go before she was eligible to graduate from Harper, was ineligible for federal financial aid because she was an undocumented student. She had applied for scholarships from the Foundation, but given the volume of applications the Foundation receives, had not been chosen to receive one. Nancy was in need of $1,000 to allow her to pay her tuition and continue on her chosen path to receive a college education and transfer to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC).

The Foundation granted her a scholarship from the General Scholarship Fund, and during her spring semester, Nancy was a champion for the Foundation. She attended events and even spoke at the Harper Heritage Society reception. At the end of the year, after receiving the coveted James Brown Memorial Honors Scholarship, Nancy transferred to UIUC with the goal to become a researcher in the field of psychology.

This past week, Nancy stopped by the Foundation offices again, this time with her little brother in tow (who is now enrolled as a Harper freshman). Nancy had a great first semester at UIUC, living with two fellow Harper alumni who were also Foundation scholarship recipients. Nancy shared that her spring semester was a bit tougher, especially after the fall election results and her continued status as an undocumented student. Shortly after the election, a group of students was planning to hold a "Build the Wall" rally on campus. Concerned about this event, Nancy contacted the Chancellor at UIUC and asked the Chancellor to host a meeting with her and the organizers of the rally. The Chancellor agreed, and after the meeting and an honest dialogue amongst the parties, the student group decided to cancel their "Build the Wall" rally. Nancy continues to advocate for her education. Given her status, she is self-funding her education, and through scholarships and grants, has been able to afford the cost of her classes.

Nancy is dedicated to helping other undocumented and DACA students, and is interning this summer with I-CAUSE (Illinois Coalition Assisting Undocumented Students' Education) where she will help train faculty and staff at UIUC to be better prepared to help students with issues regarding immigration legislation, understanding DACA & administrative relief, and educating the campus community on resources for DACA students and narratives of undocumented students. Nancy plans to graduate in the Spring, 2018. The biggest news of all - she's changed her area of study. She's now majoring in immigration law.