Amidst protests, hunger strikes, and petitions, there are certain individuals and organizations who are truly making a difference when it comes to immigration reform. One of the most recent examples of this was the announcement made by both the Tucson and Sunnyside school districts, right here in our community. As a way of showing support, both districts have pledged financial aid to undocumented students who attend their schools.
This type of proclamation is unprecedented, not only in the state of Arizona, but throughout the U.S. The districts passed these resolutions in conjunction with National Educators Coming Out Day. This day was celebrated on April 9th. The idea behind National Educators Coming Out Day is:
- To encourage educators to publicly come out and be proud/open about supporting and working alongside undocumented students.
- Encourage students to reach out to their educators to come out publicly and to move beyond support into action.
- Encourage conversation around what support looks like for undocumented students in schools and to engage in conversations on how to increase the resources and access for undocumented immigrant students in education.
Specifically, these resolutions included a promise from educators that their students would be supported when pursuing higher education, no matter what their immigration status may be. Tucson's Sunnyside Unified School District dedicated $10,000 to be used for scholarships. This money was collected through donations and will provide for ten $1,000 scholarships. Those who receive these scholarships will be undocumented students who plan on attending Pima Community College.
The press conference at which these announcements were made was organized by Scholarships A-Z. This local organization “provides scholarships and resources to students regardless of immigration status.” Although the organization has not been around all that long, it has managed to make a significant impact throughout the state of Arizona. According to its website, in May of 2009, a student and advisor at Pima Community College put together a resource list that would help to provide college scholarships to all types of students. After discussions were had with undergraduate and graduate students at both the University of Arizona and Pima Community College, Scholarships A-Z was born. The website was launched on September 29, 2009 and works with educational institutions in Arizona, Georgia, and California.
These scholarships can make a big difference. Jessica Garcia, a student at Pima Community College, said that she was lucky enough to have a teacher at Sunnyside High School who helped her “find resources to attend college.” Garcia's younger sisters did not receive such help and were forced to delay their educations. Garcia also works for Scholarships A-Z.
The executive director for student equity and intervention at Tucson Unified School District, Jim Fish, believes that the time for these types of scholarships is now. “I stress that we owe them the opportunity to reach the stars, to reach as far as they can get regardless of immigration status, regardless of their status of being undocumented,” he said. “These are students who are in our country and who have the right as every citizen to have the best education that we can give them.”