The University of California, Berkeley, and San Francisco State University have introduced a program to provide young Latinos with information and advice on issues such as Deferred Action policy and opportunities to attend college.
Ventanilla de Educación, an education initiative sponsored by the Mexican Consulate in San Francisco, is staffed by student volunteers from the two universities.
From a permanent office at the consulate, volunteers will help Latinos apply for Deferred Action, an Obama administration initiative that shields undocumented teens and young adults from deportation under certain conditions.
The Ventanilla volunteers will also provide information about scholarships and financial aid along with opportunities to study online with Mexican educational institutions.
"I am here to share my experience and hopes," Berkeley student Blanca Zepeda told the EFE news agency. "This is a way to give back to the community."
Besides providing basic information, Zepeda and the other volunteers can serve as role models.
Born in Guadalajara, Mexico, Zepeda arrived in the United States when she was 11 along with her parents and two brothers, all of them undocumented immigrants.
"The beginning was very hard, we kept going around California for two years until we finally settled in Richmond, in the San Francisco area," she said.
"I was accepted to Berkeley when I was still undocumented and before Deferred Action was approved. I was very worried because I didn’t have access to student loans but, luckily, I earned several scholarships that helped me to pay for school."
Stories like Zepeda’s may inspire other young Latinos who approach the Ventanilla de Educación seeking to start, continue or resume their education.
"There are many resources in Mexico and California for those who want to advance their studies, but there seems to be a disconnect between what is offered and the Latino community," according to Marco Negrete, Mexican Consul for Community Affairs.
"Moreover, often people who are here undocumented are afraid and they do not consider all the resources available to them," he said.
The idea behind Ventanilla de Educación is "to offer a window where people can connect and get help," Negrete said. "Immigrant children need to be aware that they can apply for Deferred Action and go to college."
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