My DukeEngage journey came to the end on a hot summer night. Through this journey, I not only formed connections with my DukeEngage crew, but also with amazing local folks. Over the past eight weeks, I worked at Scholarships A-Z, a non-profit organization. As the name implies, one of the organization’s main missions is to provide support to DACAmented and undocumented students. Since lots of SAZ members have work or school during the day, we usually have meetings in the evening. Even though my schedule is different from other folks in the DukeEngage group, I really enjoy being a part of the SA-Z team, which is both a cool group doing meaningful work and a close circle of accomplices. My main project was to develop a series of Family Preparedness Plan training to help people better understand the legal context and prepare for the future, but the night at Maricopa college is most memorable to me.
With SA-Z and their partner groups’ efforts, DACAmented and undocumented students won in-state tuition at all of Arizona public universities in 2015. However, on June 23, 2017, the Arizona Court of Appeals ruled that DACAmented students do not have legal status in the state of Arizona, which means they are no longer eligible for in-state tuition. The decision will likely generate a lose-lose outcome. Arizona is urgently in need of brain power, yet the court ruling would deprive thousands of students access to higher education. On June 29, 2017, Maricopa school district, a community college in Phoenix, held a board meeting to vote whether they will appeal the case to Arizona Supreme court. Even though I have studied grassroots activism at Duke, I have never personally been involved in any activist event. When I heard undocumented and DACAmented folks share their story, I suddenly realized another value of education, enabling people to stand up and fight for themselves. Eventually, the board passed the motion. I will always remember the spirit and people’s dedication from that night.
In my last article, I wrote the two sides of Tucson, but looking back, I think what makes this city unique is the variety of ideas. The more I learn about immigration and human rights abuse, the more I realize I do not know. People’s strength, dedication and positive energy impressed me and inspired me. As Duke students, we see, we learn and we think on this journey. Finally, it’s time to start taking actions.
I sincerely appreciate this opportunity which changed my world.