Faculty, students and community members gathered at California State University, Bakersfield Tuesday to celebrate the opening of the campus’ first ever Dreamers Resource Center — a spot on campus that will ensure students and staff feel safe, comfortable and supported.
The center will provide undocumented students services that support inclusion, enrichment, recruitment and more. Some services, for example, include navigating the school system, providing assistance in applying for the Dream Act financial aid, and assisting with legal services, such as renewing passports and applying for citizenship.
“Today’s ribbon cutting sends a very clear message of what we value here at CSUB,” said President Lynette Zelezny. “We value collaboration, our students and supporting them, and value being an inclusive campus where all students belong.”
Valeria Veliz, a fourth year child adolescent and family studies, said the university has been advocating for a center for 10 years.
“I’m also undocumented, so to me having [this] center, it means the world to me,” Veliz said. “We welcome all immigrants here, whether you’re African American, Asian, lesbian, gay, transgender — it does not matter. This center brings that sense of support and acknowledgment to all of our students that we exist.”
Veliz comes from a mixed status family and is the first undocumented member in her family to be on her way to get a degree. She is in the process of gaining citizenship; however her priority date for her hearing isn’t for another 20 years.
“People don’t understand there is so much that goes into it,” Veliz said.
Zelezny expressed excitement for the opening of the center, calling it a safe place for students.
“You can get the help that you deserve, and we can help you in any way where you have barriers in front of you in terms of your immigration status,” Zelenzy said. “This one is one for the history books.”
Lourdes Hernandez, a first year Educational Counseling and Student Affairs graduate student, said it’s difficult for undocumented students to feel secure in their higher education due to uncertainty of funding and support from the community.
“I also came to see what resources will be available to students as I enter a profession in Student Affairs,” Hernandez said.
Aaron Wan, the president of Associated Students Inc., moved to the United States eight years ago.
“Being undocumented, it’s a very scary time but us being able to build this Dreamers Resource Center really provides that safe zone for our students, staff or faculty, and all our community,” Wan said.
However, he sees the Dreamer Resource Center as just the beginning of creating a more inclusive community altogether.
“We become the leaders in our community by having this resource center,” Wan said. “It might be a small step but it’s like a domino effect. If we have it here the community now is more comfortable and we could really influence Bakersfield as a whole.”