Photo by JOE GIDDENS
Story by ERIK MEDINA
Since last fall, there have been plans to open up a resource center for students attending Pima Community College, specifically those who are not from the United States whether they’re immigrants or refugees.
“I think the immigrant and refugee student resource center has been an idea in a lot of people’s mind for a long time,” said Hilda Ladner, Pima diversity, equity, and inclusion officer.
The resource center has been supported by several members of the community and also members of Pima such as board member Mark Hannah, who represents District 1, the chancellor and the provost.
“I think one of factors that helped us really push us into opening sooner is that students wanted us to have a resource here at Pima,” Ladner said.
Last spring, a group of student senators met with the provost and the chancellor and said it would be an important resource for Pima to have. The board supported it. With policies changing at the national and state levels, specifically in Arizona the Arizona State Supreme Court ruled that DACA students aren’t eligible for in-state tuition. The PCC community wanted to make sure to have a resource available, where information is constantly being gathered is relevant and important for those who need it.
Ladner had just started working at Pima as the diversity, equity, and inclusion officer when the idea of the resource center had begun. She was offered to take the lead in the effort, and she accepted.
“I was very excited, to be able to, lead this effort. It is something I really strongly believe in and I value,” Ladner said. “I myself am an immigrant, to the U.S. These are important resources to have available for students, and I was excited to lead up the effort and be part of it and to use my background and knowledge in working in equity and diversity and around a lot of these issue to bring this here.”
The center will be operated as a group effort, falling in the area of Ladner as lead. She will be assisted by student peer mentors that will be day to day, doing work and gathering information and making sure it’s available for students.
“Our goal is to make this place a safe place, a place where students can feel like the can come here if they have any questions or need any resources,” said Dana Pineda, a student ambassador at the resource center. “It’s not just for students it’s for faculty and staff. Anyone in the community that has questions. We are LGBTQIA friendly, we are immigrant friendly, refugee friendly, really anyone friendly. Anyone who needs help. We will not turn anyone down.”
Aside from that, they will be helping students get connected to resources in the community and here at Pima. The center will also be offering professional development opportunities for faculty and staff, to be able to talk about issues and be able to best support the immigrant and refugee students here at Pima.
The resource center will be working across the district and at all of the different campuses at Pima, but the physical location is housed at the Downtown Campus.
“It’s a good accessible location for a lot of students, so when you are looking for information it’s easy to get to,” Ladner said. “This is our temporary space, because we know we want to make it bigger since there is a need and we didn’t want to wait for a space to become available, its information that is needed now.”
Ladner hopes that the center is able to provide the resources that students need to be successful, that more students are able to gain access to an education here at Pima and that they are able to find financial resources for more students or permanent paths for their ability to be here in the United States.
“Educating more of our community around what the issues are and ensuring that were creating a place where everyone feels they belong,” Ladner said.