Here to Stay! CU Denver Doubles Down on DACANov 14, 2022
As a first-generation or immigrant student, you may wonder, “How do I navigate college? What resources are available to me?”
The Center for Identity & Inclusion (CII) supports all qualified students, including students under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Advancing Students for a Stronger Economy Tomorrow (ASSET) programs, students from mixed status families, and undocumented students.
The Undocumented Student Services Program in the CII has a mission “to serve DREAMer and mixed status students at all intersections of documentation and equity needs, to support DREAMers in achieving their degree, to create an equitable educational environment, and to advocate alongside students for continuous improvements in the DREAMer college experience.”
Estéfani Peña Figueroa, CU Denver’s first Undocumented Student Resource Coordinator, says, “I like to consider this space to be a one-stop-shop for students, and a place where we can answer all their questions and meet their needs. For example, we want to provide support to students with financial aid forms, including FAFSA and CAFSA. CASFA is still new, and students may not know that this is a possibility, so we want to help them with completing financial aid forms and obtaining work study if they are eligible. We want to ensure that if students are coming in as high school graduates, that the process is as smooth as possible, ensuring that they are receiving in-state tuition, completing the COF and the COF affidavit, and receive the proper referrals to on and off campus resources. As for DACA students, we want to ensure that they have referrals to financial assistance, resources, and are able to complete their renewal forms.”
A DACA recipient and Auraria Campus graduate herself, Estéfani has experience with different CII offices and has collaborated on multiple tri-institutional events, such as the Tri-Institutional Dreamer Graduation for undocumented and DACA students, resource days for immigrant students, and events for Latinx Heritage Month. She explains, “My goal is to make sure students know about the resources and services available to them, no matter their immigration status. I will collaborate with my colleagues in order to develop resources that this student population can utilize. I am starting to plan a Dreamer Resource Day for the spring, where we will focus on DACA renewal assistance, legal resources and information, as well as being able to cover some of the fees.”
CU Denver Goes to Washington
This month, Estéfani will be representing CU Denver CII and the office of DEI at a conference in Washington D.C. hosted by FWD.us, a nationwide resource for immigrant students.
“I am an undocumented Latina with the benefits of DACA, and I've been able to graduate from college and work legally thanks to DACA. However, DACA has constantly been under threat, so I am attending this important fly-in event next to hundreds of other DACA recipients, where we will have an opportunity to express the urgency of Congress taking action now and providing a permanent legislative solution. Being part of this community and being directly impacted by any decision related to DACA is truly important for me because it will have a huge impact on me, my family, my community, and the students I support. It’s urgent for me to be present and for us to share our stories.”
Investing in our Future
Reflecting on CU Denver’s 50th Anniversary and the future of the university, Estéfani commented, “By hiring me into this full-time position role, CU Denver is demonstrating their equity-serving institution status and providing immediate support to undocumented students. In Colorado, there are about 1000 undocumented students that graduate each year, and it's important that students know that they are represented, supported, and welcomed into this institution.” She explains that it’s important for students to have a point of contact, especially with the new resource of TheDream.US scholarship at CU Denver.
Committed to providing critical resources that ensure the success of undocumented, asylee, and refugee students, CU Denver has partnered with TheDream.US, the nation’s largest college access and success program for immigrant youth. From November 1, 2022, through February 28, 2023, students can apply for a new undergraduate scholarship to help them pursue their college education.
Scholarship for DREAMers
TheDream.US National Scholarship is for DREAMers who are first-time college students living in Colorado, or currently or previously enrolled in college or university undergraduate students attending CU Denver intending to earn a bachelor’s degree. This opportunity is open to undocumented immigrant students, with or without DACA or TPS, who came to the U.S. before the age of 16 and before Nov. 1, 2017. The one-time scholarship award is for up to $16,500 for an associate’s or up to $33,000 for a bachelor’s degree. Those selected can use their scholarship to attend CU Denver.
Estéfani, who is alumna from the scholarship, can help students with the application process and its requirements. “I'm celebrating that I can continue to support our Undocumented and Immigrant communities access higher education.”
Students can schedule a confidential appointment with Estéfani in both English or Spanish now.