Building bridges: AB 540 students’ struggle for a better education
February 19, 2009
By Joselyn Arroyo for El Nuevo Sol, California State University, Northrdige
Being an undocumented student is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to deal with. As soon as I got my residency, I made it a mission to use my story to empower other students like me while educating others about the hardships undocumented students face as they try to continue their education. I decided the best way to do this was to create a radio documentary sharing the experiences of other undocumented students while weaving it in with my own. The final piece, Building Bridges: A.B. 540 Students’ Struggle for a Better Education (Construyendo puentes: La lucha de los estudiantes AB 540 por una mejor educación) explores the experiences of seven undocumented students as they try to pursue a college education in California.
AB 540, a law passed in California in 2001, allowed immigrant students to pay in state tuition at some colleges and universities as long as they met these criteria: (1) attend a California high school for three years or more, (2) graduate from a California high school or receive the equivalent General Education Diploma (GED),(3) register or be currently enrolled in a California Community College, California State University, or University of California, (4) sign a statement with the college stating that she/he will apply for legal residency as she/he is eligible to do so. Although this helped many undocumented students pursue higher education, it didn’t solve their biggest obstacle: obtaining legal staus in the U.S. My documentary is divided in 11 sections and touches on various themes and patterns that came out of my interviews with undocumented students. I presented this radio documentary as my thesis project for my masters degree in journalism at California State University, Northridge. My hope was that my project would counteract the stereotypical images of immigrants in the media, create an educational tool for others to use, and most importantly to empower other students who are in similar situations.