By Diane Carter
V.I.D.A. — CELEBRATING ACHIEVEMENT AND INCLUSIVENESS
Voices of Immigrants Demonstrating Achievement (VIDA) is a statewide resource center for students affected by immigration and citizenship issues.
The San Francisco City College chapter of VIDA was started by undocumented youth activist who were students at our college in 2012.
The local City College chapter of Voices of Immigrants Demonstrating Achievement (VIDA) presented an Open House in the Student Union Building on September 14.
A remarkable group of at least 125 students, together with teachers, board of trustee members, administrators, student government leaders, mentors, and participants from additional campus groups, came together to support the program that benefits the students represented by VIDA.
The event began with a keynote speech by Alejandro Jimenez, coordinator of the on campus club. He provided historical insight about the goals and objectives of the VIDA program.
“Many students in California are undocumented because parents decided to bring them to the United States to get a public education here for a better life,” said Alejandro.
Before 1982, children who were undocumented could be denied the right to attend a public school. However, a landmark legal ruling by the Supreme Court in the case of Plyler v. Doe upheld the fourteenth amendment right to equal protection, where no state could deny any person in their jurisdiction the equal protection created by education. This made education possible for all undocumented students in California.
“Many immigrant students have had negative experiences after completing high school, when they have inquired about college attendance,” said Alejandro. “The mainstream community, did not have the correct information to help these students get financial aid and referral to college.”
“We get thrown under the bus and scapegoated, accused of taking jobs, blamed for the economic crash,” and for every other ill in the country. “Moreover, we get mis information from our high school teachers and high school counselors, often because they lack the training that can help undocumented students connect with colleges and with financial aid when needed.” Many of our students have been told they might not be able to go to college because of their undocumented status.”
“When you graduate from the twelfth grade, you start to be treated as an undocumented adult. Since you are a non-citizen, you can’t get a social security card and this makes it hard to apply for traditional jobs.” So, many undocumented students end up working for LLC’s and non-profits with the intent of making money to go to a four-year college.
The V.I.D.A. network develops educational leadership skills; it teaches networking, connects undocumented students to professional people, and assists students with educational plans. The network explains benefits like those available under AB540 while maintaining a program to provide financial aid for transferring college students. VIDA also maintains a connection with attorney, Jeff Bezos, who provides legal advice when students need immigration and customs enforcement help.
VIDA provides a safe meeting space for students. A tremendous amount of friendship between members of the group is evident, because many of the students have come to college through similar circumstances and have poured their heart into their studies.
Chancellor Mark Roca attended the open house and spoke with the students. His message was well received. Dr. Rocca spoke about how he identified with the students of VIDA. Both of his grandmothers were undocumented immigrants, one from Columbia and the other from Puerto Rico.
“See,” he said, “and I am now wearing this suit.”
Dr. Rocha informed us of how he wanted VIDA to help with planning the use of resources under AB540.
A Sacramento legislative bill will be sending $10 million to Los Angeles colleges for DACA renewal work. City College will receive some of that money and will give administrative support and counseling that will assure our students a place in the educational allocations, helping send our students on to four year colleges and universities.
Board of trustee member, Tom Temprano, then spoke to the students and reassured them that City College will protect the safety of all students and all classes and will curb anti-immigration actions on our campuses. Tom then voiced his political opposition to Republican immigration plans.
Several student mentors spoke at the open house. Alma aka Sol, Javier, and Mesley spoke on behalf of the student staff. Alma read one of her poems expressing her feelings about being an undocumented Chicana and how hate has spread in the current political climate.
Another poet and student, Yair Tapia testified to the great good that the VIDA program provided him. He was assisted with money for textbooks and counseling when he applied to University of California at Berkeley.
The VIDA program sends a positive message to the community it serves. It is a vital part of the political and social climate of San Francisco and of the United States of America. Programs like VIDA demonstrate that California as a state is committed to the development of talents and gifts that our undocumented students bring to the United States.