Although they are now DACAmented, Alonso Reyna Rivarola and José Hernández Zamudio experienced the struggle firsthand of being undocumented students at the U.
The two, currently graduate students in educational leadership and policy, have been working to solve the issues that accompany this struggle in order to help other students for the past eight years.
“It’s hard to navigate higher ed because you know you don’t qualify for FAFSA and you’re unqualified for work study,” Reyna Rivarola said. “You’re restricted with so many possibilities and options, which is hard.”
Reyna Rivarola and Hernández Zamudio created a blog, which is now a website, called Edúcate with a group of youth-researchers in the Mestizo Arts & Activism Collective. Created in 2008, it informs undocumented students about policies on earning United States citizenship in Utah and scholarships that are available locally and nationally.
Edúcate is part of a movement to make college easier for students. Reyna Rivarola said while the blog was not the sole inspiration for the DREAMer’s RoadMap, it most likely helped influence the scholarships in Utah.
Trever Bruhn, academic program manager of the Office of Engagement, said he is excited for how the app can help undocumented students, often known as DREAMers. The DREAM Act, short for Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors, is a bill that would have granted a pathway to citizenship to undocumented immigrants who earned a high school diploma or GED, but it never passed.
“We support DREAMers, and finding funding is one of the largest challenges they face in pursuing an education,” Bruhn said. “Helping simplify the process of finding scholarships they are eligible [for] is very needed.”
There were 157 undocumented students at the U in the 2013-2014 school year, but Reyna Rivarola said these numbers only represent people who filled out HB 144 forms to qualify for in-state tuition. There are about 300 students who are on the mailing list for scholarships Edúcate publishes, and the page has already had over 4,700 hits this year.
Reyna Rivarola said he is excited for the new app but also a little wary, as it requires entering some personal information. Most undocumented students are scared to give out even their email address, so Rivarola hopes the app creators can keep that in mind.
On the local scale, Reyna Rivarola said he and Hernández Zamudio will continue to develop Edúcate and eventually want to turn the website into an app that helps Utah students specifically. Reyna Rivarola said he hopes students will take advantage of programs such as one the Utah System of Higher Education has developed. The partnership has representatives from most of Utah’s colleges and universities trained to help undocumented students and provide safe places and resources to guide them through college.