Education / 2013

Dream Resource Center

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Maker Challenge by UCLA Labor Center

This year, the Dream Resource Center (DRC), within the UCLA Labor Center, is launching a new high-school educational program in partnership with the Children’s Defense Fund and the Los Angeles Unified School District. Our goal is to develop an immigrant rights curriculum that focuses on contemporary issues facing immigrant youth. The program includes high quality academic enrichment, parent and family involvement, civic engagement and social action, intergenerational leadership development, and nutritional and mental health. The curriculum will integrate the two publications that have captured the voices of immigrant youth throughout the country, Underground Undergrads and Undocumented and Unafraid, along with a book that highlights the history of the Los Angeles labor and immigrant rights leader, Miguel Contreras: Legacy of a Labor Leader. High-school youth will be exposed to contemporary social issues and gain the unique opportunity to connect their classroom learning to community empowerment. The program will involve high-school students from grades 9–12, with the intention of engaging a community of new leaders. Ninth-graders will be able to form an early connection to their new school and peers, while older students will be able to mentor the younger students and impart the knowledge gained from their high school tenure. Coordinators of the outreach program are active members and leaders of the immigrant youth movement and bring with them the experience and knowledge to overcome economic, social, and linguistic barriers to maintaining good grades in high school, excelling in college, and becoming models for the next generation. They will design curriculum for immigrant youth at various high school campuses in the Los Angeles area. The DRC was created to promote access to education for undocumented immigrant youth. As an immigrant-youth-led project, the DRC has played a significant education and research role in two immigrant youth movement victories recently celebrated in the United States: the California Dream Act, a policy that provides financial aid to undocumented college students, and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), an Obama administrative action directing federal immigration authorities to defer deportation and provide two-year work permits for undocumented youth. These victories were won by undocumented immigrant youth, and the leaders of this movement are in the best position to provide outreach and education to their peers regarding policy changes that affect their access to work permits and higher education. Both of these victories were won by the courage, determination, and perseverance of immigrant youth themselves, without staff, lobbyists, or funding. With these new policies in place, now is the time to educate the next generation of immigrant youth about their educational and employment opportunities. Some Los Angeles inner-city high schools have up to a 30 percent undocumented immigrant student population. Yet to date, there are no ongoing programs within the LA Unified School District to educate these youth, their parents, teachers, and counselors about how to take advantage of DACA and the California Dream Act. The curriculum being developed and piloted this summer will be the first of its kind and would contribute to the development of ongoing education and outreach to encourage undocumented immigrant youth in Los Angeles to pursue their dreams in higher education.


What are some of your organization’s most important achievements to date?

In the last several years, the UCLA Labor Center has emerged as a national resource for undocumented immigrant students and immigrant youth leadership development. The Labor Center has conducted research on immigrant youth, actively promoted their civic engagement, taught the first courses in the country on undocumented students, and published two nationally acclaimed books written by and about undocumented students. The first, Underground Undergrads: UCLA Undocumented Immigrant Students Speak Out is currently in its fourth printing and has sold more than ten thousand copies. The second, Undocumented and Unafraid: Tam Tran, Cinthya Felix, and the Immigrant Youth Movement, is being promoted as part of a national book tour during the 2012–2013 academic school year. To drive activities in this area, the Labor Center established the Dream Resource Center, a project to promote equal access to education by developing educational resources, support, and leadership development for immigrant students across the country.

The Labor Center engages in other activities to address the needs of undocumented immigrant youth, including hosting Dream Summer, the first national internship program for undocumented students. This program has placed 250 students and awarded a total of $1.25 million for interns to continue their education. Through Dream Summer, interns learn skills and build the capacity of host organizations focused on specific issues or campaigns such as health and health care access, civic engagement, education, youth leadership, and LGBTQ issues.

Both Dream Summer and the Undocumented and Unafraid book publication and tour have been models for developing online resources that have connected with thousands of undocumented immigrant students throughout the country who are in need of basic information. These activities are just two among several at the Dream Resource Center that have served to create an online and in-person support network to give undocumented students the encouragement they need to pursue their dreams.

Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.

Los Angeles Unified School District; United We Dream; Dream Team Los Angeles; Children’s Defense Fund.

Please explain how you will evaluate your project. How will you measure success?

The Dream Resource Center will evaluate our outreach project and measure success in three ways: 1) Participant feedback from high-school youth; 2) Partner response from school staff, city representatives, and local immigrant youth organizations; and 3) Operational assessment.

The specific evaluation processes are below. 1) The Dream Resource Center will conduct surveys with participants at educational events and trainings to learn about their assessment of the materials, presentations, and accessibility of our facilitators, along with their suggestions for improvements. We will also collect data on the number of attendees.

2) We will interview partners about their experiences in the collaboration, troubleshoot during project implementation, and assimilate their recommendations into the development of new collaborative efforts. The DRC also measures the success of partnerships by interest from new partners.

3) The DRC’s Dream Summer was recently evaluated by an external team and will apply the assessment of our strengths and shortcomings to operations and implementation of other projects. In addition, the DRC conducts periodic assessments of programs by debriefing with staff, reviewing participant surveys, and analyzing attendance statistics. Evaluations guide the DRC’s strategic planning process to improve operations, partnership development, and project implementation.

The overall success of our outreach will be measured by the number of undocumented youth who graduate from high school, apply to college, and participate in activities and projects with local organizations.

How will your project benefit Los Angeles?

Los Angeles will benefit from higher rates of high-school graduation and increased civic engagement among youth. The proposed project will thereby advance the UCLA Labor Center’s commitment to promote access to higher education for underrepresented communities. We expect our Dream Resource Center model will provide information, leadership development opportunities, and infrastructure for building support networks among immigrant youth to be replicated on campuses throughout the city. This will increase opportunities for immigrant youth to participate in leadership development programs, promote civic engagement, and encourage greater access to higher education.

Positive immigration policy change is currently being debated nationally and will happen within the near future. Immigrant youth leaders trained through this program will achieve their educational goals, emerge as leaders in their own communities, and advance policies and programs to promote immigrant integration.

What would success look like in the year 2050 regarding your indicator?

In 2050, Los Angeles will embrace the rich immigrant traditions of our city. Immigrant youth will have full access to educational and employment opportunities, and former students who benefitted from the work of the Dream Resource Center will have gone on to become college professors, doctors, scientists, engineers, lawyers, teachers, artists, entrepreneurs, philanthropists, and members of school boards, state legislatures, and the US Congress.

Los Angeles 2050 will be a world-class city filled with immigrants and children of immigrants from throughout the world. The rich immigrant traditions will have energized our educational institutions, our economy, and the cultural life of the city. Los Angeles 2050 will serve as a beacon of hope for the country and for the world, as a city where human relations are harmonious, where the economy is thriving, and where immigrants and their children and grandchildren are fully integrated in all aspects of the city’s economic and social life.