On Sunday California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law SB 1210, the California DREAM Loan Program that will allow undocumented students in the state’s public university system the ability to receive “gap” loans directly from the state. According to the legislation’s author there are an estimated 7,700 undocumented students currently enrolled in the UC and CSU system and because of their immigration status they are unable to apply for federal loans.
This will benefit students at our local campuses, especially California State University, San Bernardino, which this August became one of only two CSU campuses to participate in TheDream.US national program, a $25 million scholarship fund for undocumented students. Funded by some of the country’s most recognizable names including Microsoft founder Bill Gates, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, and eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, the private scholarship program has a goal of providing scholarships to more than 2,000 undocumented students across the country. The new DREAM Loan Program will complement this and other programs well.
Even before there was a DREAM Act or funding for DREAMers, Cal State San Bernardino was the place where immigrants found they could dream big. The year before I started my freshman year of college there, I spent several weeks in a summer prep program with other underrepresented students – preparing for college life. During that summer I met Patricia and Manny. Patricia’s mom was a garment worker from El Salvador who worked in the factories of downtown Los Angeles. Patricia was the first in her family to attend college.
Manny was from Belize and somehow ended up living on his own as a teenager. He told us that to survive he slept in trees and foraged for food in the heavy brush of Belize. Like the surge of unaccompanied children currently fleeing Central America’s poverty and violence, Manny made his way alone to Southern California. I don’t know how he made it to Cal State San Bernardino’s campus, but there he was in the STEP program eager and excited for the school year to begin.
I got to know both Patricia and Manny very well because they came to live with me the first quarter of that school year while they waited for available dorm rooms on campus. We didn’t have enough room at the Brown household, but my parents couldn’t turn away anyone who needed a place to live, and Manny found sleeping on a futon in the den to be much more comfortable than the tree tops of Belize.
Like the current crop of DREAMERS, both Patricia and Manny dared to dream of a better life, and they found Cal State San Bernardino’s campus fertile ground to sow and cultivate those dreams. While I’m not sure where Manny is now, he did graduate with a degree in mathematics. And I keep up with Patricia through social media; she also completed her degree and now works for the Los Angeles Department of Public Social Services. It’s good to see Cal State University is still helping to make dreams come true.
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