The Undocumented Student Program worked with immigrant and Latinx student groups to host its fifth annual Dream Gala and first in-person gala since 2019.
The gala is a fundraiser to provide funds for undocumented students on campus in need of financial assistance. The funds are used similarly to the University of Maryland’s emergency funds.
“A lot of school programs, they aren’t as liquid as we are, meaning that sometimes you have to go through a paperwork or wait a couple of weeks before you can get some of the funds, and that is where we differ,” Cristian Ortiz, the vice president of Migrating Shells — a student organization aimed at helping create a sense of community for immigrant students — said.
The Political Latinx United for Movement and Action in Society group, a social justice student organization advocating for issues impacting the Latinx community, also helped organize the gala.
The organizers weren’t certain the event would be held in person until the last minute due to the Omicron COVID-19 variant surge and possible low turnout, but they planned the event well in advance to make sure it ran smoothly, Ortiz, a junior public policy major, said.
“We’re really thrilled that we’ve been able to get some support from the various institutions at the university and with their support, we’re able to provide a formal type of gala setting so that our students feel like … [they] have support,” he said.
For undocumented students, the past few years have been difficult and full of uncertainty due to the pandemic, Migrating Shells President Shavanah Ali said.
“It’s been hard for undocumented people especially to just basically survive [the COVID-19 pandemic],” the senior government and politics major said. “With the Dream Fund, it’s one of our ways, really a small way, that we can help our students.”
The event featured a dance performance from GGWB, a dance group that performs dances from various Asian music genres. After the performance, the event featured keynote speaker Jaime Martin Ko Atilano, an immigrant from the Philippines and alum of this university.
Atilano discussed their experiences as an immigrant and how it can resemble many student immigrants on campus and the power of having supportive communities throughout those experiences.
“Today, I’m sharing this space with dreamers, from all different aspects,” they said. “You all have the capacity to dream and to pursue your dreams and … it is our right to dream, and everyone here today should have that privilege.”
Atilano also emphasized the importance of a community working together to create opportunities for immigrant students.
“The Dream Fund is funded by us, together. And the gala here today showcases how community is such a powerful asset that can all work together,” they said.
The event organizers were excited about the dance performance and the speaker, but they are most excited about being able to raise funds for immigrant students in need.
“Our main goal or focus is to allocate funds for our Dream Fund. All of the money goes to … legal fees for DACA recipients and undocumented student needs in general,” Amy Rivera, the president of PLUMAS and a junior criminology and criminal justice and government and politics major, said.
Ortiz also explained how the fund helps provide students with a sense of community that can help them succeed.
“We’re just looking forward to the undocumented students just feeling validated … feeling like the community is rallying behind them and wanting them to succeed,” he said. “In addition to just being in a setting with faculty, their teachers and their administrators so that they feel like the community is here for them.”