The Importance of Connectedness

Many research articles have been written on undocumented students restraints on access to higher education, limiting career opportunities and academic and emotional stress. Individually though, undocumented students go through so much more. A common theme that I have seen emerge in reading a few personal stories is the theme of “connectedness”. Connectedness comes in the forms of social networks at school, work, family and friends. It also come from feeling a sense of belonging and connection with others whom are like you. As mentioned in the above promotional video for Educators for Fair Consideration, as soon as students realized that there were others out there like them, others that were willing to get together and stand up for themselves, growth opportunities emerged. As Jose Ivan Arreola mentioned in the video, as undocumented students band together as a movement they are able to connect with one another, tell their stories and let their voices be heard. Educators for Fair Consideration is the open space for students to talk about their undocumented status and to be proud of who they are.

In the article, Sharing Their Secrets: Understanding and Supporting Undocumented Students, Ariana, Maria, Cecilia, Oscar and Camila all had a common theme of “connectedness” in their personal stories. Their connections and networks (and lack thereof) were important factors in their lives. Let’s take Ariana’s story, for example. In college, Ariana participated in business organizations, nonprofits and scholarship programs (Hernandez, Hernandez, Gadson, Huftalin, Ortiz, White, & Yocum-Gaffney, 2012). She took full use of her networks and business savvy skills. She graduated from one of the nation’s top-ranked business school and her thesis received special Honor’s Recognition. When she was asked what her plans were after college, she simply replied that there was still so much more for her to accomplish in the United States(Hernandez et al., 2012). She was engaged as a student on her campus and grew a support network where she felt connected and comfortable to come out and grow personally and professionally.

For Camila, the theme of connectedness was seldom seen in her life. She grew up ashamed of her undocumented status and was afraid of getting close to anyone. Although she did well in school and decided to pursue a graduate degree after receiving her bachelor’s, she felt disconnected from her family (whom live in Mexico), had very little friends and avoided romantic relationships. She is 23 years old and still feels that she is in the same place emotionally when she was 14 years old. In her interview, she was holding back tears because her sense of connection to her family was dwindling as they did not understand why she wanted to pursue even more education after her bachelor’s program. She has her guard up and is not open to connecting with others like her and is very strategic in what information she shares with her friends. It was clear to see that she did not know what she was planning after her graduation from her graduate program. Her networks and connections were limited because she completely withdrew herself.

Through out these stories, the theme of connectedness is very strong. Feeling a sense of belonging and connection is so important for undocumented students and plays a key role in their future and successes. Programs like Educators for Fair Education give undocumented students the opportunity to open up and feel a sense-of belonging to a group where their collective voices can be heard. Programs like these should not only exist outside the classroom but their should be programs focused on these issues on college campuses as well.

References

Hernandez, S., Hernandez I. Jr., Gadson, R., Huftalin, D., Ortiz, A., White, M., & Yocum-Gaffney, D. (2012). Sharing their secrets: undocumented students’ personal stories of fear, drive,and survival. New Directions for Student Services. 131. 67–84.