On Feb. 23, Delta College held a day-long conference centered around undocumented students, families, and peers. Approximately 200 people were in attendance, including vendors.
Hosted by the school’s Counseling and Special Services division and Office of Student Equity and Diversity, the attendees were shown and introduced to many different resources and services that could be accessed for school, work, and the community.
All presentations, documents, and speeches given were presented in both Spanish and English.
“This conference symbolizes our belief in the right for everyone to pursue higher education without fear,” said a passage from the conference committee’s welcome message.
The day kicked off with breakfast for all attendees before everyone in attendance was ushered to the Tillie Lewis Theater.
Outreach/Marketing specialist Marisol Hernandez and Board of Trustees member Janet Rivera gave the opening welcome speeches before the keynote speaker was brought out.
Rivera, whose family consists of many Delta College graduates along with herself, was recently re-elected to serve on the Board of Trustees in November.
The keynote speaker was Max Vargas, University of the Pacific graduate and Senior Policy Advisor for Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs.
He spoke of his history, not only educational but also personal.
Vargas, who grew up in Peru, fled his native country to escape the dangerous political climate caused by the terrorist organization The Shining Path. He emigrated to the United States as a child, and after years of overcoming obstacles and immigration problems, his family was able to join him and all became American citizens.
Key lectures included stories about starting independent businesses no matter a person’s immigration status, rights of California residents, Delta’s support services offered to students, and financial aid.
“The reason we do this conference is to inform that even though they are undocumented or immigrants, they have rights,” said SJDC Spanish professor and Undocumented Ally Educator Ricardo Aguilar.
Aguilar was one of many involved with this conference, stressing the importance for the Spanish-speaking community.
With many fearing for their livelihood and families, undocumented citizens may not explore their surroundings. Saturday was a day for all to do so.
“This is their community college,” said Aguilar.
Stockton Schools Initiative (SSI) was also at the event with a table set up in Danner Hall during the lunch break, included among many other organizations offering services available to the community.
SSI is a relatively young community organization that works with Stockton Unified School District Board of Trustees members, undocumented students, and mixed-status families to ensure education needs are met for all. According to Camille Zapata, Head of Communications with SSI.
“One in 13 students in California are undocumented,” said Zapata. Her quote comes directly from Ed Trust West, part of nonprofit Ed Trust.
“In addition to immigrants from Mexico, we recognize the undocumented Californians from Central America and Southeast Asia in our community,” Zapata stated.
The event wrapped up with a drawing for an iPad given to one lucky member in the remaining crowd, with the rest going home knowing that they are in a community willing to help everyone no matter citizenship status.
“As soon as we forget this is a community college,” said Aguilar. “We are not serving our community.”