For an UCLA Student, a Scholarship Goes a Long Way

I am more determined to end my last year strongly and commit my work to the communities that have been there for me.

Janeth Lopez, a 2014 recipient of OCIYU’s Scholarship for Undocumented Students, shares about her college experience as an undocumented student.

Growing up in a low income community next to the city of Vernon, I was exposed to a lot of environmental injustice. I have health issues that I have not been able to care for until I got to UCLA and was covered with the school’s health insurance. I was determined to graduate from UCLA with the purpose to return to my community and become a powerful resource. Most of my time at UCLA has been challenging because of my economic situation. Having to stress about finding small jobs without DACA to sustain myself led me to not grow as an academic but barely get by. I have been privileged enough to get support from organizations like IDEAS and Wesley Foundation, both providing emotional support, connections to tutoring jobs, and free food.

After my first year at UCLA once I had thought I had learned how to handle college, my grandmother impulsively decided to go back to Mexico. Both her and my mom were my parents and they worked as a team to raise me and my siblings. My second year at UCLA I had my first campus job but my mental health took a toll on me physically and I wasn’t able to continue it. Having her move away without promise that I will see her again has caused a lot of pain for me and my family. Not having the presence of someone who raised me led me to feel down a lot of the times. I took on a leadership position with IDEAS in my 3rd year, IDEAS is the undocumented support group at UCLA. I pushed to create the connection with on campus to ICE out of LA efforts, mostly because I felt the family separation strongly. IDEAS also became the emotional support I needed in terms of understanding how difficult it is to be undocumented and away from your family.

If it wasn’t for getting the OCIYU scholarship last year I don’t think I would still be at UCLA. I was privileged to be chosen for a scholarship that helped me pay my rent and apply for DACA. I had put off DACA for so long because putting down money for the application made me uneasy. I am not used to spending that much money and I thought I could find employment without it. 

I started my 4th year at UCLA with DACA and thankfully have two jobs, I feel a bit more stable financially and this has helped me to raise my GPA. I am more determined to end my last year strongly and commit my work to the communities that have been there for me. Currently I am doing research on women’s reproductive health whilst having dealt with trauma in their past.

Organizations like OCIYU are important for the advocacy work they are a apart of but also to serve as a resource of support for undocumented people like me. Financial instability affected me mentally and physically, but now that I had the support it gave me a head start for my senior year. Programs like this should be supported as my story is not only of my own, but shared by many, some even without access to being able to apply for DACA. Financial support provides security and hope for opportunities towards giving back to our communities.

OCIYU is committed to continue providing financial assistance to undocumented students. Donate today and have your donation matched dollar for dollar by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

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