Researching How to Help Undocumented Students

February 10, 2020

Marianella PerezOn the phone with a private university’s financial aid office, Marianella Perez ’21 chose not to mention her last name.

She had called to ask about what resources the institution has for undocumented students. After calling many other colleges and universities around California, she picked up over time that her surname might cause the person on the other end to conflate undocumented students issues with Latinx issues—which Perez pointed out is inaccurate.

That was just one of the hurdles that the political science major learned to overcome in her summer-long investigation of private institutions throughout the state. She asked about whether they have programs, cultural center resources, or undocumented student advocates. Through her search, she identified a gap.

“What I got out of that is that people just don’t have a lot of knowledge [regarding undocumented students]. They don’t really know what to do in those circumstances. There aren’t a lot of resources that they’re aware of,” she said.

Perez wants to change that. As part of the project, she plans to provide online resources to help undocumented students navigate the process of going to college while connecting them to available resources, including grants, scholarships, and people on campus who have received ally training.

Perez had received financial aid herself for the project through the Alianza de los Amigos Martin Ortiz Fellowship, which provides support for a student to complete an internship or research project. Last year’s recipient, Ivelis Colón ’19, had told Perez about the fellowship and encouraged her to apply, since it would be a great opportunity to build her research experience.

Through the process, Perez learned to narrow her focus and tackle a bigger issue one step at a time, and how to network and communicate with professionals.
She ultimately hopes to attend law school and become a lawyer for community organizers starting local and national movements.