Being an undocumented student isn’t easy — especially as a first-generation college student.
I have struggled every step of the way while on the road to higher education. My high school counselor was my go-to person every time I had questions about applying to college but even she didn’t have all the answers to my questions about being an undocumented student.
Because of my status, reaching higher education presented its difficulties. Every mishap stressed me out, and I wondered if college was an option for me.
learning from outside sources helped enough to get me by but not enough to where I felt confident coming into college.
As months passed after applying to school, a colleague of mine invited me to an event held by a student organization called Latinos Unidos Por Educación (LUPE) at Bakersfield College. LUPE is for first generation college students and provides a safe haven and supportive environment for undocumented folks. LUPE promotes civic engagement and activism for immigrant rights and develops partnerships with community leaders and organizations.
On the way to the LUPE event, I didn’t know what to expect. I was hesitant. Nonetheless I walked into the event and was greeted as one of their own.
The energy was out of this world, and inclusiveness was a priority. LUPE members were easy going and approachable.
Most of us shared one thing in common . Most of us are undocumented students trying to live out the Latinx-American dream — the dream that our parents made attainable to us as they brought us to the U.S. when we were just old enough to start elementary school.
That single thing in common gave me a space where I was able to share my struggles, and for the first time in my life, people my age were able to relate and support me.
I had the privilege to hear stories from LUPE members when they were younger and lived in Mexico. The stories were unique in their own way, but somehow, I could relate so much.
I felt a sense of belonging and comfort. All my problems as an undocumented man living in U.S. seemed to have vanished at that moment, and I truly felt free.
During the meeting, LUPE’s leadership members were introduced, and each individual shared their own experience with LUPE and how the organization has impacted them. Some LUPE members were so grateful, they said LUPE was life changing, and they wouldn’t be where they’re at if it wasn’t for this movement.
As the day went on, speakers from different organizations spoke to the audience. Many of these were prestigious organizations, such as the United Farm Workers Foundation, the American Civil Liberties Union and South Kern Sol. These organizations provided students with crucial information they otherwise wouldn’t have.
LUPE also introduced students to different Bakersfield College resources, like job development specialist and writing tutors. These resources offered opportunities to first generation students who most likely would miss out on because of the lack of understanding of college.
Later we heard from Manuel Rosas, the LUPE adviser, go into depth about what LUPE does and all the events they attend. Some of those consisted of a UCLA trip and a retreat.
To finish the evening, LUPE students took the stage, and they did a Q and A with the audience. We were all interacting and listening to one another. The room was filled with laughter and joy.
The atmosphere throughout the event was astonishing, and I’m so glad I decided to attend. I certainly left with more than what I came in with, and it was an experience I will never forget.
I encourage any first generation and undocumented Bakersfield College students to give LUPE a chance. You will not regret it.
We’re using C.R.’s initials in consideration of his safety.