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EMCC event opens doors to education for undocumented individuals

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Are you undocumented and think college is not an option? Think again. Estrella Mountain Community College’s (EMCC) Educational Empowerment Open House is for you.

The goal of this open house is for all participants to walk away feeling informed of their educational options. “Usually, people of an undocumented status feel that education is not an opportunity for them,” said Catrina Kranich, Student Services Director - Recruitment. “We want them to walk away from this open house feeling informed about their educational options and empowered to pursue their educational goals.”

The inaugural event, set for 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Jan. 18 in the Estrella Conference Center, is the brainchild of Omar Romandia, Student Services Specialist - Recruitment, who was himself an undocumented high school student.

“About 2,000 undocumented students graduate from Arizona high schools every year,” he said. “In 2010, I was part of that statistic and felt defeated by a lack of guidance in my attempt to pursue higher education.”

It was through work with the community that he came across countless organizations, mentors, and support systems that ultimately helped him graduate from Arizona State University debt-free.

“Due to my experience, I want to extend hope, resources, and support to students and parents of all walks of life, regardless of their background, in an effort to expand higher education access to more individuals,” he said. “It is in our best interest to properly educate the leaders of tomorrow.”

The open house kicks off with a session titled “College Readiness & Immigrant Scholarship Hustle,” followed by “Developing Your Identity,” “Complexities of Working in the U.S.,” and “Know Your Rights.” The first two sessions repeat in the afternoon at 1 and 1:30 p.m.

Romandia explained that the “Developing Your Identity” session teaches participants how to leverage their culture as a catalyst for betterment, growth, and success.

“Being undocumented can constitute living in the shadows and not fully embracing one’s culture/background,” he said. “As a formerly undocumented student, I deterred from feeling proud of my culture for fear of being targeting or stigmatized.”

Participating organizations include Aliento, Lucha, Mecha, Somos Un Pueblo Unido, Chicanos Por La Causa, Immigrant Scholarship Hustle, and Undocumented Students for Education Equity.

“We want community members to attend this open house so they can become aware of resources, educational opportunities, scholarship opportunities, and other important resources that are specific to their immigration/undocumented status,” Kranich said. 

The event is free and open to the public. Registration is not required. Estrella Mountain Community College is at 3000 N. Dysart Road, Avondale.

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