Aylwing Olivas, a 21-year old student at Miami Dade College's InterAmerican campus in Miami, noticed that undocumented immigrant high schoolers were dropping out at staggering rates.
So between biology classes and his duties as college student body president, Olivas organized a group of friends. After deciding that social media would be the best way to reach undocumented high school students, Olivas' group developed an online campaign to help Miami-Dade teenagers learn about their options for higher education and develop a plan. But, until this week, the group lacked one thing -- money.
On Monday, the InterAmerican campus group became one of five organizations to receive part of a $25,000 grant from Mobilize.org and the Knight Foundation. Thirteen student groups competed for the funds.
Across the nation, undocumented high school students attend college at very low rates. According to a 2008 report by the Immigration Policy Center, roughly 65,000 undocumented children who have lived in the United States for five years or longer graduate from high school each year. Only between 5 and 10 percent of these high school graduates go on to college, according the report. And those that do make it to college campuses often do not graduate. In 2010, only 51 percent of all Latino college students graduated after six years in school, according to the American Enterprise Institute.
The InterAmerican campus' anti-drop out group will receive a $5,000 grant and technical support from Mobilize.org. Their videos and pod casts will be made available to students at Miami Senior High School, Coral Gables Senior High School and Miami Springs Senior High School, according to The Miami Herald.
Olivas, who is also an undocumented immigrant, hopes that his project will empower others to take action to slow the drop out rate among undocumented students.
"We are trying to empower students within our communities to develop a sense of urgency and to try to do something. If we can get students within high schools to actually go out there and form coalitions and groups within our high schools, than we've done an incredible thing," Olivas told the Mobalize.org judges.
WATCH: Aylwing Olivas Makes His Bid For Funding (Starting at 1:50 minute mark)
Fermin Vasquez serves as the statewide Communications Coordinator for Californians for Justice. One of Los Angeles' youngest emerging Latino leaders, Fermin was a Front Line Leaders Academy Fellow with the People for the American Way Foundation, based in Washington D.C. In 2010, Fermin became the first one in his family to graduate from college, and received his degree in Political Science from California State University, Los Angeles. He was also a founding member and President of Students United to Reach Goals in Education (S.U.R.G.E.), a support and advocacy organization for those that may not have come here with the right papers, but have been raised with the right values. He is a contributor to the HuffPost LatinoVoices <em>DREAMers Blog Series</em>, and his posts can be read <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/fermin-vasquez" target="_hplink">here</a>.
Laura E. Enriquez
Laura E. Enriquez is a doctoral candidate in sociology at the University of California, Los Angeles where she does research on the experiences of undocumented young adults. She is a dedicated scholar-activist and specializes in immigration, race/ethnicity, and gender. She has been mentoring, teaching, and organizing with undocumented young adults for the past five years. She is a contributor to the HuffPost LatinoVoices <em>DREAMers Blog Series</em>, and her posts can be read <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/laura-e-enriquez" target="_hplink">here</a>.
Fernando Romero is the Coordinator for the Justice for Immigrants Coalition of Inland Southern California; he is also a co-founding member of <a href="http://dreamersadrift.com/" target="_hplink">Dreamers Adrift</a>, a new media project for undocumented students, by undocumented students. He is a contributor to the HuffPost LatinoVoices <em>DREAMers Blog Series</em>, and his posts can be read <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/fernando-romero" target="_hplink">here</a>.
Alma Castrejon was born in Mexico City and came to the United States at the age of seven. In 2008, she graduated from UC Riverside with B.A. degrees in Political Science - International Relations and Chicano Studies. While at UCR she founded Providing Opportunities, Dreams and Education in Riverside (PODER), a support group for undocumented students on campus. In 2011, Alma received her Master of Arts degree in Education at CSU Long Beach. She has been a member of Dream Team Los Angeles (DTLA), a community and student group that advocates for undocumented student rights and immigrant rights, since 2009; she is also an active member of Graduates Reaching a Dream Deferred (GRADD), a group of undocumented graduate students that addresses the needs of immigrant students interested in pursuing graduate education. Alma will be applying to law school in the fall of 2012. She is a contributor to the HuffPost LatinoVoices <em>DREAMers Blog Series</em>, and her posts can be read <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alma-castrejon" target="_hplink">here</a>.
Juan Escalante is an undocumented student and recent graduate from Florida State University. He is a core-member of <a href="http://www.dreamactivist.org/" target="_hplink">DreamActivist.org</a> and the founder of <a href="http://dreamactivistfl.org/" target="_hplink">DreamActivistFL.org</a>; both are online organizations that provide resources for undocumented students across the country. He is a contributor to the HuffPost LatinoVoices <em>DREAMers Blog Series</em>, and his posts can be read <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/juan-escalante" target="_hplink">here</a>.
Nancy Meza is a human being from Jalisco, Mexico. She was brought to the U.S. by her responsible and courageous mother at the age of two and proudly grew up in East Los Angeles California. She is a graduate of Theodore Roosevelt High School in Boyle Heights. After High School she attended East Los Angeles Community College and transferred to UCLA where she became actively involved in organizing around undocumented and immigrant rights issues with IDEAS at UCLA and Dream Team Los Angeles. She graduated with a degree in Chicana/o Studies and a Labor and Work Place Studies minor in 2010. She is currently an intern at the Dream Resource Center; a project out of the UCLA Labor Center and continues to organize with Dream Team Los Angeles where she is a member of the media and communications team. She is a contributor to the HuffPost LatinoVoices <em>DREAMers Blog Series</em>, and her posts can be read <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/nancy-meza" target="_hplink">here</a>.
Erick Huerta is majoring in journalism at East Los Angeles College. As a member of Dream Team Los Angeles, he is one of the coordinators handling the group's communications and social media endeavors. He has lived in the U.S. for the past 20 years and has been chronicling his personal experiences as an undocumented resident for the last eight years on his personal <a href="www.justarandomhero.blogspot.com" target="_hplink">blog</a>. He's also a community reporter for the community of Boyle Heights and an avid cyclist. He can be recognized by his trademark bigotes. He is a contributor to the HuffPost LatinoVoices <em>DREAMers Blog Series</em>, and his posts can be read <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/erick-huerta" target="_hplink">here</a>.
Jonathan Perez is a queer undocumented political exile from Colombia, and a Co-Founder of the Immigrant Youth Coalition in Southern California. On why he contributes to the series, he writes, "It is shocking to most, but I don't actually advocate for the DREAM Act. I organize for the rights of undocumented immigrants. I believe that in order to have meaningful changes we must first address the root causes. In order to change our realities we have to build a global movement and a global revolution. I write for the Huffington Post <em>DREAMers Blog Series</em> because it gives me the opportunity to give a different perspective to what the issues of undocumented people are." You can read his posts <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jonathan-perez" target="_hplink">here</a>.
Mayra Hidalgo Salazar
Originally from Naranjo, Alajuela, Costa Rica, Mayra immigrated to the United States with her family when she was 6-months-old. She is undocumented and has dedicated her life to the immigrant movement in Florida. She lives in Lakeland, Florida where she is an organizer for Students Working for Equal Rights (SWER), a grassroots organization founded by undocumented immigrant youth in Florida. She also serves on the Florida Immigrant Coalition (FLIC) and United We DREAM (UWD) Board of Directors. She helped start an immigration legal clinic that offers free legal immigration consultation to low-income immigrants in her community and serves as the Clinic Coordinator. She also serves as the Migrant Scholar Advocate for Scaffold the Scholar, a professional development initiative for former farm-worker women working in early childhood education and is a member of the Polk County School Board Diversity Council. She was a project manager for the Trail of Dreams campaign in 2010, a 1,500 walk from Miami, FL to Washington, D.C., demanding that President Obama stop the deportation of undocumented students. Currently a undergraduate college student, she aspires to eventually earn a law degree specializing in immigration law so she can continue to serve the community that taught her to persevere against all odds.
Jesus Cortez is an undocumented graduate student at the California State University, Long Beach College of Education. He grew up in Anaheim, California and is a member of the Orange County Dream Team. He is a contributor to the <em>DREAMers Blog Series</em>, and his posts can be read <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jesus-cortez" target="_hplink">here</a>.
Angy Rivera is a Colombian-born, New York-raised undocumented immigrant who started the first undocumented youth advice column, Ask Angy, while a core member at the New York State Youth Leadership Council. She also blogs for DreamActivist.org.