My name is Madeleine Villanueva, and I am the Catalyst Fund Specialist at Immigrants Rising, which means that I get to work on broadening access to higher education for undocumented young people!
Being undocumented myself, I used to believe that higher education was just another item to check off in the many steps of getting papers. But my time at Immigrants Rising and as one of the leaders of UPLIFT, a collective supporting undocuAPIs like myself, made me realize that education is one of the key pathways to success where people learn new skills, build connections, and make the change they want to see in the world.
But I know from my personal experience that opportunities are skewed. Our system does not set up undocumented young people up for success. The issues are compounded when it intersects with the undocuAPI experience—educators are not aware of the various cultural experiences that face our community.
Undocumented people are the best people to lead and empower our own community. So this year, I worked with other UPLIFT members to prepare a resource guide to help educators better reach and engage undocuAPI students.
Very often, we don’t get to lead because of issues with money, capacity, access to opportunities, and insecurities that come with the shame associated with the undocumented experience. Immigrants Rising is unique in its investments in empowering the individual, which transforms them to be a better leader and create that change they want for their community.