By ANGEL CANEZ
Tucked away in the far back end of on the top floor of Pima Community College Downtown Campus Campus Center building in the communication department sits a tiny little office. The Immigrant, Refugee and Student Resource Center or IRSRC. The IRSRC opened its doors at the beginning of the year, provides up-to-date legal information and students to scholarships opportunity and student workshops is headed by student ambassador Dana Pineda a 22 year old a first generation college student majoring in bioengineering.
It was already 11:30 in the morning and Pineda was already out making a difference, returning from a high school career fair where she was handing out scholarship papers, undocumented student college guides , “Know Your Rights” flyers to high school students.
Pineda is well aware of the finances problems that students in general face as she pays out of pocket herself. “I pay for school out of pocket applying for scholarship is the most tedious and difficult thing in the world and it talks so long to get them. I feel for these students, college isn’t easy it’s not cheap and i think we need to keep fighting for these students,” said Pineda
“I got involved with IRSIC because Yolanda invited me i was at the JADE socel retreat program last semester. That’s where i met yolanda and hilda and they kind of got me on to this.” said Pineda as thats how she found her way on this helpful path.
“To learn you’re actually making a difference frees good,” Pineda said. “One of the first high school we went to, we had scholarships, high school and college checklist papers and what was really incredible was how excitements these students were to have something for them” ”to see the excitement, I didn’t know there was this opinio I didn’t know i could do this. To learn we were actually helping.
“As a student ambassador I work with students who come in to my office or I work with counselors who email or call me, me directly. l work on trying to get as many resource for the office. We do not tell the students what to do, we just refuse them to places. We have laptops available for students if they want to apply for scholarships and stuff while there here”. “I think this is really importing, we don’t have anything like this and because its increasing in the number, and there no long accepting application for DACC. So there a large amount of undocumented students coming out of high school, there the ones who need a lot of help. Were noticing that a lot of councils don’t know what to do they don’t know who to ask questions and it ts importing because Pima is a stepping stone,” said Pineda
With Prop 300 the Public Program Eligibility act voted in 2007, which does not allow a person who is not a United States citizen or legal resident to receive community college or state university tuition purposes. It makes it harder for immigration studies or doca students to receive scholarships as any scholarship they get must be private.
“Now with the changes students are no longer allowed to put in doca application for scholarship we coming across more undocumented students. Even students who have doca are confused about what they can and can’t do. students don’t qualify for instate tuition or state aid no scholarship from those school if a student where to get a scholarship it would have to be private. . Its making it increasingly difficult to get.” ““ we’ve come to realize that it’s not only for students at pima but further students as well,” said Pineda
IRSIC is holding an event on May 11th at the Downtown campus. The immigrant and refugee community resource fair from 9 a.m to noon. It has been organized to provide immigrant and refugees students who may find it difficult to find useful information. “ This resource fair isn’t only immigration and refugee families but for everyone. It’s going to have different organizations agencies pima programs that are going to be out there talking about the opportunity that are actually possible to students. The lutheran service, catholic community services, Sage “Southern Arizona Gender Alliance” They don’t ask for your documentations, they don’t ask any of these questions and people don’t know about it and that’s what were shooting with this and were also shooting to set up a scholarship program.
In september of last year the arizona republic reported that there has been up to a 40 percent decrease in student enrollment do to higher tuition cost as they are labeled as out of state students.
The main problem with the IRSIC comes down to size as its by no means a center, but more of a small office thats can only fit two chairs and a desk.
If i could change anything about this it would be a bigger center that’s more open that people can see. Student can see student life were part of student life. People can see the veteran center, disability center why can’t they see us. That’s the biggest challenge we here and people can’t find us” Said Pineda in regards to the biggest opstice the IRSRC faces. “ I wish people knew were that were here we open to everyone regardless of race couler cree sexul orention everyone we work with so many people that i wish they knew we were here. Pineda said
“There a lot of political uproar and political disagreements on this topic, but people who are immigrants are some of the hardest working people i know. Some of the students we work with top of their class, all honers. You stop thinking of these people as people and start seeing them as this label that they put on them and that’s not fair why should we have a center where people feel safe”.