Publish Date: Tue, 06 Oct 2020 13:55:45 -0700

How One Undocumented Crafton Student is Navigating College Life

For undocumented students, pursing a college education is often thought of as just a dream. But at Crafton Hills College, students receive the help they need to navigate the process.

“At first I felt like I was alone because I did not know what to do,” shared one undocumented former Roadrunner (who wished to remain anonymous) when asked about the college’s application process. “But EOPS (Extended Opportunity Programs and Services) helped me with services that I didn’t know about. That was reassuring.”

Crafton – along with other community colleges throughout California – has supported programs focused on creating higher learning opportunities for undocumented students for years. In November 2016, Crafton joined a letter-writing campaign with fellow CCs to encourage then-President-Elect Donald Trump to continue the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. DACA allows children of undocumented immigrants to pursue education-related opportunities at a collegiate level.

Several faculty and staff within Crafton’s admissions, counseling and other student services are well-versed in handling the process to help undocumented students come on board. Recently, a forum was held at the Yucaipa-based campus that focused on getting the word out to potential students about programs available for all.

“We pride ourselves in creating an inclusive learning environment where students from all walks of life are not only welcomed but are actively encouraged in the college community,” said Crafton President Kevin Horan.

The inclusiveness of Crafton is one of many reasons why the 19-year-old college student quoted in this article became a student here.

Prior to coming to this country, the now-Yucaipa resident grew up in Mexico with his family, including his mother and younger sister. In 2014, the family moved to California on a tourist visa and “overstayed,” he said. A year later, his dad abandoned the family, leaving his mom to work multiple jobs to survive. “We have been through a lot, a lot of hardships, and we had to move a lot of times because we never had a place of our own,” he explained. “Right now we are living with a friend of the family. I have to work and so does my sister. It’s been hard, but it’s been good.”

Adjusting to life in the U.S. was also tough for the teen, having to learn English and American customs and culture. But living in California was not a huge culture-shock to the then-eighth grader because the state has a “lot of Mexican culture,” he said.

Before applying to college, the teen began taking Crafton-based dual enrollment courses at Yucaipa High School. Encouraged by his mother, the 19-year-old was able to complete his studies at Crafton in just one year. “My mom has been my rock,” he said. “She would tell me, ‘Keep studying so you don’t end up like me.’ She inspires me to continue.”

The Crafton grad transferred this fall to the University of Redlands, where he plans to become a human rights litigator and aspires to move across the globe to help others who share similar life experiences. “I want to help others like me,” he said. “I want to create a stage for people to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves.”

If the opportunity arises, the teen will pursue an American citizenship and continue to share his college experience with others to encourage undocumented students to apply for college. One of his biggest tips to others like him– put yourself out there. “I’ve been blessed with a lot of people in my life,” he said. “Meet people in clubs, make friends, make as many connections as you can. Opportunity exists.”