A long-held dream to help immigrant and refugee students facing unique barriers by providing them with resources that focus on empowerment, support and staying enrolled in school, has come to fruition with the opening of the Dream Center at Portland Community College’s Rock Creek campus in northwest Portland.
Aimed at helping undocumented and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) students and their families, the first-of-its-kind center at any Oregon community college or university officially opened Jan. 22, made possible through a $50,000 grant from the Meyer Memorial Trust.
Liliana Luna, Rock Creek Multicultural Center coordinator and a DACA recipient, said PCC has long recognized that undocumented and DACA students face unique barriers that require additional mental, emotional and financial support.
The idea for the new resource came from the students. They wanted to ease pressures on DACA recipients by taking down barriers to financial assistance and the navigation of college resources. Under the supervision of the campus' Multicultural Center, the students came up with a plan, did exhaustive research, and presented their final concept to college leadership.
"They met with me in my office two years ago and told me, 'This will happen,'" recalled Rock Creek President Sandra Fowler-Hill of the students' determination. "I'm so proud of their work.”
The opening of the center fits into PCC's mission. Last year, the college's Board of Directors declared the institution a "sanctuary college" to aid and protect undocumented students.
President Mark Mitsui emphasized concerns about the impact of potential changes in federal immigration policy on PCC's undocumented students as the reason for the decision. The students and their new resource center coordinator -- Jhoana Monroy -- appreciated the symbolism of the center’s opening.
"It's something big and unique we are going through," said Monroy. "This is an honor for me to be serving these students, who strive for success, education, advocacy and, above all else, to further their dreams."