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Undocumented immigrant youth spend summer making positive change

LOS ANGELES – In the basement of a Koreatown church, a unique kind of class is in session where dreamers like Madeline Villenueva harness their dreams into change despite their legal status.

It’s Dream Summer workshops like this that have led to victories in the battle for immigration reform.

“When I first found out I was undocumented I didn’t even know it was an option to advocate for yourself,” said Villanueva.

This is the fifth year of the National Dream Summer organized by the UCLA Labor Center. Program officials say 400 students from across the country applied and 80 were chosen.

For ten weeks the interns ranging from high school to college age take part in workshops that include government, law, the immigration movement, and other lessons tailored to the issues facing the immigrant community.

“The main point is to allow undocumented youth and allies and a lot of youth that have been pushed out of educational systems to be able to access employment or professional or other opportunities that often they cannot get a hold of,” said Seth Ronquillo, a Dream Summer alumnus who now serves as the program’s communications officer.

“Dream Summer was really an eye opening experience because it made me realize that being undocumented is not going to stop our community from being able to do what we want with our lives,” he recalled.

Part of the program includes internships with immigration advocacy groups and other social service programs, which have helped win victories by pushing laws; the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and AB60 which lets undocumented immigrants apply for California drivers licenses.

This summer, the tradition of making widespread change will continue. The Dream Summer’s focus this year will be pushing for the proper implementation of California’s recently passed Health for All Bill.

 

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