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Fresno State launches fund drive for Dream Center

Fresno State launched a fund drive and a plan to establish an endowment for the university’s Dream Outreach and Success Program on Feb. 16.

The program is designed to help undocumented students enter Fresno State and succeed during their time here.

“Basically, it is a pathway to success for undocumented students,” said David Hembree, development director for student affairs. “There are a number of nuances as far as who those folks are in the category of ‘Dreamers’ that covers all the undocumented students that are trying to access higher education at Fresno State.”

The fund drive was organized so the school can ensure that the center can provide the services needed to a growing pool of undocumented students entering Fresno State.

“In the fall of 2015, there were over 500 students in the program,” Hembree said. “Currently, we have over 1,000 students who have applied to Fresno State for the fall of 2016.

“So it’s growing incrementally — certainly the need is growing, I think those numbers will continue to grow.”

The university has set up several levels at which supporters can pledge their contributions that range from $500 to $10,000. Additionally, Hembree said an endowment fund would be established at pledges of $25,000 or by donating a smaller amount that is instructed to go toward the endowment fund.

The program is split into two components, the Dream Outreach Center and the Dream Success Center, which is different from most other universities, said Raul Moreno, coordinator of the outreach center.

“The Dream Outreach Center is the part of the program that works on access and opportunity,” Hembree said. It will provide outreach to unenrolled students interested in pursuing higher education and help them navigate the path of enrolling into Fresno State under the DREAM (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) Act.

The California DREAM Act is a package of state laws that allow children who were brought into the U.S. illegally, under the age of 16, who have met certain school attendance and GPA requirements, the right to apply for in-state tuition and state-administered financial aid.

Hembree said, the outreach center hopes to “convey to these students that their dreams can come true.”

The Dream Center deals with students who are already enrolled at Fresno State. The success center, “will support, advise and counsel — even along the lines of career counseling — students once they arrive at Fresno State.”

Any students meeting the eligibility of the DREAM Act are eligible, should they want to enroll in the program.

“Sometimes there is a reluctance among “Dreamers” to ask for help because of their undocumented status,” Hembree said.

While many of the services offered through the Dream Center are available through other means, Hembree said undocumented students have unique challenges that require staff with specific training and knowledge.

“Taking into account immigration, documentation and citizenship status, and navigating the financial aid and resources that are available for them as undocumented students. That’s all fairly complicated and outside of the realm of what normal advising services at Fresno State do,” Hembree said. “Student affairs and Fresno State are all focused on student success and this is just another way that we are identifying specific students and creating opportunity and access.”

The Outreach Center connects students with outside agencies and even helps them deal with immigration.

Moreno stressed that students applying under the DREAM Act were not looking for special treatment.

“DREAM students are regularly admissible students, meaning they meet every single standard the university has in place to be admitted,” Moreno said. “They are not looking for a free ride. They are willing to work. They are willing to do the job. They are simply looking for an opportunity.”