By Thomas Figg-Hoblyn
The VIDA Resource Center threw a grand opening celebration in the Student Union on February 29, attracting a large crowd of supporters and officials who were treated to live music, touching speeches, delicious Mexican food and dancing.
VIDA stands for Voices of Immigrants Demonstrating Achievement.
The center was founded by Carlos Martinez and Grecia Castaneda of S.A.F.E. (Students Advocating for Equity), a club where undocumented students are welcomed. Martinez conceived the idea in 2010 for a resource center for S.A.F.E. members, offering computers, scholarship information, legal services and counseling.
“This resource center is the first of its kind in the state,” said Martinez.
Guest speakers included Associate Dean of Student Activities Samuel Santos, District 9 Supervisor David Campos and Trustee Steve Ngo. Trustees Milton Marks and Chris Jackson, were also on hand.
Marks said that he came by to give his congratulations to VIDA and see how he could help.
Martinez and Castaneda had received a lot of help to make their dream of a resource center for undocumented students a reality.
Support from Santos, along with guidance from the City College AB540 task force led by Yeti Silva, was instrumental in establishing the center, said Martinez.
According to the task force there are over 300 undocumented students at City College who benefit from AB540 — a law that permits them to qualify for in-state tuition rates, despite their non-resident status.
Supervisor Campos told the story of how his family brought him to America at age 14. As an undocumented student at Stanford, Campos said he would wear his Stanford sweater whenever he traveled by plane to avoid discovery.
“Never give up on your dream of education,” he said.
The 30 S.A.F.E. members stood in line and one by one turned to the audience and said who they were, where they were from and what their educational dream was.
Martinez led the way stating that he was from Mexico and was unafraid.
Castaneda said that her dream is to be a lawyer.
Students from Mexico, El Salvador, Costa Rica, even Peru, proudly spoke out as friends, family and fellow students cheered for them.
A deep sense of community filled the room as people from many different backgrounds and races celebrated the success of VIDA.
Towards the end of the event the music was turned up and the real celebrating began as the old and young danced in joy.
Ashraf Suliman, a City College student who migrated to America from Sudan in 1999, said that the event was amazing, and it felt like he was part of a large community on campus.
“I feel were all part of history — part of a new generation that is changing our society,” said Suliman.
The Vida Center is tiny, less than a few hundred square feet. But, it’s a start. And thanks to the courage and diligence of Martinez, Castaneda and those who support them — the possibilities and dreams are endless.