UTSA's new Dreamers Center clearing confusion, promotes inclusion

Directs DACA students to resources: financial aid, scholarships, internships

By Courtney Friedman - VJ, Reporter

SAN ANTONIO - President Trump on Thursday announced for the very first time that he's open to giving some Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program recipients, or "Dreamers," an eventual path to citizenship.

"I think it's positive, but it's only today's announcement and we don't know what tomorrow's announcement will be," said Courtney Balderas-Jacob, a UTSA staff member.

While the "Dreamer" program sits in limbo, DACA students at UTSA are celebrating what they call a move of inclusion.

The university on Monday opened a Dreamers Center on campus, where students now say their stress and confusion are addressed. 

"I was born in Monterrey, Mexico, but I am from Houston, Texas," said Emmanuel Quiroz, a senior at UTSA.

Quiroz lives the life of so many immigrant children.

"At one point, my dad lost his job, so he got laid off and he had to come work here to make a better life. My mom had to give up everything so we could come here to be with our family and not be separated," he said.

In just four months, Quiroz will fulfill a lifelong dream and graduate from UTSA with a communications degree. However, getting to this point as a DACA student hasn't been easy.

"We don't get federal aid. We don't get grants. That's a big misconception that a lot of people have. That's not how life works for us, so we have to scrape up anything we can to try to pursue our education," Quiroz explained.

There is state funding, along with private scholarships and grants for dreamers, but finding those opportunities and navigating the system can be daunting. That's why Quiroz joined a panel of other students asking for a Dreamers Resource Center.

The students did research and brought it to UTSA President Taylor Eighmy, who was impressed and thrilled with the idea. With his support, the center was opened within months. 

"A lot of school systems are not trained properly on how to deal with students in our population, so it’s tough sometimes. So the fact that now we have a center that is directly for us, that’s going to change the lives for those people so I’m very excited," Quiroz said.

Balderas-Jacob is the Dreamers Center interim program manager and works with other staff members in the office. They meet one-on-one with students about resources they can use. 

We find "financial aid information for students, so finding out about the TASFA and getting information on that, any questions they have about scholarships or internships," Balderas-Jacob said. 

She called the new center "incredibly powerful," saying, "With the current immigration environment, it's just been really important that they have very visible support and are seen as loved students of the UTSA familia, which they are." 

Students like Quiroz are already feeling that relief and support.

"I'm excited to graduate. I'm excited to look for a job because I know I have people who are going to support me regardless of my status," Quiroz said. 

The Dreamers Center is in the UTSA Student Union inside the Student Center for Community Engagement and Inclusion (UC 2.01.04). Staff members take walk-ins or can set up appointments by email or phone at dreamers@utsa.edu or (210) 458-7777.

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