Fullerton College Hosts Conference for Undocumented Students

A new program aimed at providing support services to the nearly 1,000 undocumented students, who attend Fullerton College, will host the first campus-wide AB540 Conference on March 11.

The Grads2Be Program began earlier this year and is focused on creating support for undocumented students to help address multiple factors impacting their education.

“There’s an urgent need for accurate information to be shared with AB540 students as they navigate the complex systems that include immigration, educational institutions, and employment,” said Professor and Grads2Be Program Coordinator Sylvia Pimentel.

The conference is the first large kickoff event for the new program and is expected to draw more than 300 participants.  Registered attendees are inclusive of 12 public and private universities, 30 community colleges, two vocational colleges, multiple school districts representing various high schools, charter schools and several community agencies.

“The conference will highlight the strengths and resiliency that characterizes AB540 students and enhance the awareness of faculty and staff regarding how best to support these students on their educational journey and goal attainment,” Pimentel said.

Conference topics will include admissions and records requirements, financial aid, student support programs, transitioning from high school to college, advocacy and more.  Presenters include Cal State Fullerton, Cal Poly Pomona, Cal State Northridge, UC Irvine and San Diego State University. They will be joined by Cal State Long Beach and UC Riverside at a resource fair held during the conference to share their respective AB540 programs along with community agencies such as, Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement, which addresses the needs of the undocumented LGBTQ community.

The Grads2Be Program was spearheaded by Professor Pimentel through a Student Equity Initiative proposal, which identified an achievement gap in persistence and retention rates among undocumented students. She wrote the proposal after realizing the college’s services to this population of students were limited.  According to Pimentel, there is strong campus-wide and state support for this program.

Omar Hernandez, who attended community college and is now a mentor in the Grads2Be Program, said his experience navigating the financial aid process as an AB540 student was difficult for him. “I was lost and confused as far as how to pay for my tuition,” he recalled. “If there would have been a program like Grads2Be while I was in school, I would have been aware of deadlines and resources available to me – my focus would have been entirely on school and not on how I would need to cover my tuition costs.”

Hernandez was able to seek out the support he needed on his own to complete his community college education and transfer to Cal State Fullerton where he completed a B.S. in Human Services, but the effort was a challenge. Grads2Be program seeks to eliminate this hardship by proactively providing students with mentors, tutoring, and connections to other campus resources.

Lizbeth Trujillo, who is also a Grads2Be mentor, said she had to knock on several different doors as an AB540 student to find the services she needed while attending community college.  “Grads2Be is a one-stop-shop, if you would, for students to have multiple services accessible to them.”

Students participating in the Grads2Be Program will receive mentorship, study groups and tutoring, guidance and support, resource and referral, workshops addressing multiple subjects of interest that will allow students to discuss current life events in a peer-supportive environment, and the opportunity to attend events, such as the conference on March 11.

In addition, the program seeks to enhance faculty and staff’s awareness and provide additional tools to work with students through future trainings and guest speakers.

The conference will also help bring awareness to faculty and staff on how best to support AB540 students. Elizabeth Hernandez, a doctoral intern from UCLA’s Counseling and Psychological Services will be among the conference’s guest speakers who will address multiple stressors impacting AB540 students and the types of support that institutions can provide to enhance student success.

Conference activities will begin in the Dining Hall at 8:00 a.m. on March 11 and are open to all students, faculty, and staff. For more information, contact Sylvia Pimentel at spimentel@fullcoll.edu.

Author: Jazmin

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