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Celebrating Culture, Connection and Collaboration During DREAMer Awareness Month

Celebrando la cultura, la conexión y la colaboración durante el mes para crear conciencia sobre los DREAMers

As part of DREAMer Awareness Month, the university is hosting Festival del barrio, an event to strengthen relationships within Greeley and provide support to individuals in immigrant and undocumented communities.

As part of  DREAMer Awareness Month, the University of Northern Colorado is planning an event to strengthen relationships within Greeley and provide support to individuals in immigrant and undocumented communities. 

Festival del barrio, a community festival and fair, is scheduled for Sunday, March 24. The event is part of UNC’s annual March celebration of DREAMer Awareness Month and was created in response to feedback from students who are looking for resources to help meet their needs, as well as opportunities for collaboration between the university and the Greeley community. 

“The whole intent is to close the gap that exists between Greeley and the university” said Rudy Vargas, director of UNC’s César Chávez Cultural Center and Undocumented Student Services. “Many students from Greeley mentioned for the longest time that they felt disconnected to UNC until they came here and started classes. We want to make sure we’re giving back to northern Colorado communities and populations.” 

The festival, which will be held at UNC’s Campus Recreation Center (1300 23rd St.), is open to the public. The day starts with a “Know Your Rights” workshop at 11 a.m.  

“I think it’s important for not only DREAMers, but people who surround themselves with undocumented individuals to know their rights,” said Andrea Moreno, an intern at the César Chávez Cultural Center. “Knowing how to protect yourself and others is a great resource.” 

After the workshop, the festival kicks off from noon – 3 p.m., and will feature a fair that includes campus and community resources, free headshots and haircuts, entertainment and food. 

“We want to bring a lot of resources that are connected to and support the immigrant or undocumented experience,” Vargas said. “Their goal is specifically related to advancing these populations. Many organizations don’t care about getting paid, they just want to give back to the community so everyone can benefit from these resources.” 

 According to the Anti-Defamation League, the term DREAMer refers to young and undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children; who live and go to school in the U.S. and identify as American. The term stems from the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act introduced in 2001 that would have provided a pathway to legal status for undocumented people who came to the U.S. as children, When the legislation failed to pass, President Barack Obama issued the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) executive order in 2012  to help alleviate deportation and allow students to apply for a Social Security number, work permit and a driver’s license. Under the program, thousands of people are able to attend college and work within the United States. People who have been impacted by both DACA and the DREAM Act are often referred to as DREAMers. 

Vargas said the number of DREAMers attending the university each semester varies but the annual observance is a chance for students to hold presentations to share more information about their experiences and for the university community to show their support. 

“DREAMer Awareness Month was started in 2016 to provide more awareness on the DREAMer experience,” said Vargas. “The lived experiences of undocumented individuals are hardly ever told on college campuses.” 

In addition to the annual observance, UNC offers scholarships and other resources to DREAMers. There is a DREAMer scholarship that enhances students’ experiences and provides support for emergencies. The DACA scholarship is for students trying to renew their DACA permit. It provides help for the fees required to renew every two years and if students already renewed, they will get a reimbursement from the university.  

The university also provides several mentorship opportunities. The DREAMer Engagement Program (DEP) provides current UNC DREAMer students with a mentor who was a past DEP student, to guide them through their first year in college. There is also the First Generation Near Peer program designed to provide support to Greeley-area high school students who are new to the U.S. First started in spring 2023, UNC has about 20 DREAMer students currently in the program who provide mentorship and guidance to high school students, as well as helping them to get connected to the community, their schools and other local resources. 

“We are very centered around wanting to help out the community and making sure that not only are we succeeding but opening doors for others to succeed,” said Moreno. “Showing people that there are people and resources that can help them is a great thing.” 

Festival del Barrio is sponsored by UNC's César Chávez Cultural Center, Undocumented Student Services, the Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Colorado Opportunity Scholarship Imitative, Department of Anthropology and the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition.  

Registration for the event is not required, but it is encouraged. More information is available online at bit.ly/UNCFestivalDelBarrio. 

— written by Zvi Gutierrez, student writer

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