Mexline Garcia calls Southwestern College’s Dreamer Center a place that not only empowers undocumented students to step out of the shadows, but also helps them find their voices.
As a recent graduate of Southwestern College, Garcia earned a paid fellowship through the Dreamer Center last spring. With her earnings she is now attending Point Loma Nazarene University and majoring in business administration.
Now an advocate for undocumented students like herself and her sisters, Garcia is speaking with local congressional leaders as part of this week’s statewide Undocumented Student Action Week. The annual advocacy efforts are led by the California Community College Chancellor’s Office, the Community College League of California and several other organizations, including Immigrants Rising.
“During my fellowship, I learned to embrace being undocumented,” Garcia said. “I used to feel ashamed, but through the Dreamer Center I learned about all the resources available to us. I learned to nomalize being undocumented.”
This transformation makes Dreamer Center Coordinator Alejandra Garcia (no relation) extremely proud.
“Mexline was my most engaged student,” Alejandra said. “She asked us questions to get us all thinking. She was my superstar.”
Through the fellowship, Mexline researched the many financial and support services available to students, including undocumented students.
“She channeled her role as a student, a female student and an undocumented student within the community college system,” Alejandra said. “She grew from being quiet and timid and never thinking change would happen to understanding that people are listening and that there are people who want to listen.”
Mexline has already presented her journey and aspirations to Rep. Sara Jacobs, D-CA-53, and is scheduled to meet with Rep. Juan Vargas, D-CA-51, Thursday. Both Jacobs and Vargas represent portions of the Southwestern Community College District.
Together with members of the college Governing Board and Superintendent/President Dr. Mark Sanchez, Mexline is advocating for undocumented students to get access to federal financial aid, such as Pell Grants and Work Study.
“I like to help people,” Mexline said.
Her advocacy this week and in the future will continue to pave the way for students like her.