Statement on Behalf of the Latin American Youth Center
by Miguel Castro, LAYC Youth Participant
Committee of the Whole of the
Council of the District of Columbia
Bill 21-0422, the “UDC DREAM Amendment Act of 2015”
Thursday, February 18, 2016
Good afternoon, Councilmembers:
My name is Miguel Castro. I am one of the lead student organizers with SMART (Student Multiethnic Action Research Team) of Many Languages, One Voice. I’m a graduate of Woodrow Wilson High school, and I’m currently enrolled in the Bard College Course through the Latin American Youth Center (LAYC). I am also a resident of Ward 1 in Washington, DC. I’m here today to tell you why I support Bill 21-422, “UDC DREAM Amendment Act of 2015” that Councilmember Phil Mendelson introduced for young immigrants like me.
Many people like me go through many obstacles to continue their education, because they don’t have DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) status or because they are not citizens. I came to the United States, or more specifically to DC, five years ago. I came here for a better education. I finished high school in DC with bravery, pride, and the support of my friends, SMART, and LAYC. But now want to continue my education at a university like UDC. By passing this amendment it will help me and many other young immigrant students because it will allow me to pay in-state tuition like other DC residents who graduate from DC high schools.
Last year when I was a senior at Wilson, I applied to UDC and I got accepted. I even took my first class during the summer as a college student. But when I went to check out how much I was about to pay for my classes at the office of recruitment and admissions, the person told me that I don’t qualify to pay as an in-state resident of DC even though I have my diploma from Wilson and the evidence of the work that I have been doing in my community as proof that I have been living in DC. The out-of-state tuition that I would be required to pay is more than double the cost of in-state tuition. This means that I faced many more financial obstacles, in addition to the obstacles that I already surpassed when I was in high school, making it more difficult to continue my education. But if council members pass the “UDC DREAM Amendment Act of 2015,” this will help many people, especially undocumented students, to access the education they deserve and worked hard to achieve, instead of dropping out of school because they don’t have the enough money to pay. Even though I completed my first class at UDC, I was forced to leave the university because of the high cost. Fortunately, I was able to enroll at Bard College Course at LAYC so that I don’t fall behind in my goal of going to college. However, my dream is to one day be able to enroll in a four-year college like UDC.
Today, I work at night and in the mornings to save money and take care of myself because my family is not with me. I still find time to succeed with my studies at Bard College Course at LAYC when I am not working. I want to continue with my education at UDC, but I can’t because my living expenses plus high tuition limits me, and now I’m afraid to stay stagnant. Once I stay stagnant in my education path, it will be difficult for me to continue.
If I could enroll at UDC with in-state tuition, it would be a little easier for me and I believe I will feel welcome at UDC, secure, and with motivation to keep going with my education. My dream is to go college, meet more people, get a degree, and become a professional so that I can give back to my community here in DC. The “UDC DREAM Amendment Act of 2015” will help me reach my dream. I ask that you to support this bill.
Thank you for your time.