She’s excelling at CSU; she’s also a DACA student

DACA logoIf you were to write a description of the consummate CSU student, chances are it would look a lot like this:

  • Colorado resident for several years.
  • First-generation student.
  • Classroom overachiever.
  • Working multiple jobs to help pay the bills.
  • Proud American.

Anarely Marquez-Gomez is all of those things – and so much more.

She is a senior who will graduate in May with not one, or two, but three undergraduate degrees. She has never had a B at CSU; if a couple of professors hadn’t added a “minus” to the “As” on her report card she would have a perfect 4.0 GPA in ethnic studies, political science and international studies.

She could be a poster child for CSU’s “Alliance Partnership” program, which works with 10 high schools across the state, preparing students for college. When she entered Adams City High School in Commerce City as a freshman, attending college was not an option. But counselors in the Alliance program convinced her that attending college was the ONLY option.

And she could teach all Americans a civics lesson or two. She has a copy of the U.S. Constitution on her apartment wall and has memorized every word.

Dreams in question

Actually, about the only thing that sets her apart from most of her fellow CSU students is that she is a Dreamer – an undocumented immigrant brought to America 14 years ago by her parents. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals immigration policy had given her a chance to work and consider career options, but she said the recent suspension of the program by President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions put everything – her home, her family, her hopes, her dreams – in doubt.

“I consider myself an American, and Colorado is my home,” she said, noting that she has not seen her birthplace in Chihuahua, Mexico, since she left in 2003. “I can’t imagine being anywhere else, but at the same time I don’t feel like I really belong. Honestly, I feel like an abandoned child being kicked out of my home.”

Nearly 190 CSU Dreamers

Marquez-Gomez is one of nearly 190 CSU students directly impacted by the suspension of DACA. All but a few are from Colorado, with the majority having graduated from Denver-area high schools.

Marquez-Gomez has been encouraged by the support CSU has provided, both before and after the program suspension. President Tony Frank sent a campus-wide e-mail Sept. 5 stating that CSU would do everything possible to help DACA students – known as Dreamers – navigate challenges.

Dreamers United“For undocumented students, the depression rates are extremely high because of all the uncertainty we face,” she said. “I’ve noticed the students are more comfortable here than anywhere else. CSU feels like home. I can go to classes, go to supportive professors when I need help or just need to talk. It makes you feel less alone.”

Kathy Sisneros, assistant vice president for Student Affairs, said DACA students will be facing significant challenges in the weeks and months ahead. She encouraged faculty to work with any DACA students who might be in their classes.

“Know that DACA students are experiencing shock, fear and anxiety for themselves and for their family members,” Sisneros said. “If you learn that you have a DACA student in your class, understand that they may not be as focused and may be working with Student Case management. Mostly be mindful of the deep level of duress they may be experiencing.”

Forging ahead

Marquez-Gomez is part of CSU’s chapter of Dreamers United, a national youth-led organization of more than 100,000 immigrants and supporters advocating for DACA youth and their families. The group recently met with Frank, and previously had meetings with state and national politicians to express concerns and hear the latest on the push to retain DACA.

In the meantime, Marquez-Gomez will continue working two jobs, attending classes and moving toward graduation. If Congress agrees to a plan that keeps DACA in place, she plans to pursue a law degree from George Washington or New York University – quite a leap for someone who hadn’t even considered attending college.

“If DACA ends, it’s not just asking me to leave behind my life, my friends, my family and the only country I’ve ever known,” she said. “I’m no different than any other young person – I have dreams for the future. I dream that in 30 years I’ll have a good job, have raised a family and am living in the Colorado mountains. If DACA ends …”

You can help

With several hundred CSU students negatively impacted by recent events (hurricanes, wildfires, DACA being rescinded), you can offer support by donating to the Student Crisis Fund. The fund helps students facing unexpected financial challenges that can impact their ability to stay in school.

Additional resources and support for DACA students: