Undocumented students seeking guidance for graduate school will have the opportunity to have their questions answered at an upcoming conference at UC Merced.
The UndocuGrads conference, slated for Aug. 1, is designed for students who entered the country illegally and are interested in pursuing advanced degrees. These include students with temporary legal status under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, the federal program implemented in 2012.
According to organizers, students will hear from speakers and participate in graduate workshops tailored specifically to their concerns.
Presenters will provide information regarding financial aid, the application process and how to become a competitive applicant. The workshops also will address the top six subject areas of interest among students: education, social sciences, law, ethnic studies, health and sciences, and social work.
To afford graduate school, I need job opportunities, and for that I need a work permit
Luz Sandoval, undocumented UC Merced student
Diana Valdivia Ordorica, adviser for undocumented student services at UC Merced, said the conference is a much-needed resource in the valley.
UC Merced has the highest percentage of undocumented students in the UC system. Of approximately 6,000 students on campus, about 215 are undocumented, Valdivia Ordorica said.
“Resources might not be as available here as in Los Angeles or in the Bay Area. ... This is one way to make information more accessible to (students),” she said.
Luz Sandoval, an undocumented fourth-year business and economics student at UC Merced, said she plans on working toward her MBA, but admits she needs some help in figuring out how exactly she will afford it.
Sandoval does not qualify for the Deferred Action program and therefore is not eligible for a work permit. Without a work permit, she is unable to apply for teaching assistantships that many times help graduate students cover at least part of tuition costs.
She shared that currently her mother works two jobs to help her cover undergraduate costs at UC Merced.
“It’s hard ... but that’s what motivates me,” she said. “Hopefully one day I get to pay her back and she won’t have to work as hard.”
Originally from Southern California, Sandoval hopes to stay in the San Joaquin Valley and work as a certified public accountant. She is attending the conference with hopes of learning about fellowships or scholarships for which she may qualify.
This is the third conference of its kind but the first at UC Merced. Previous UndocuGrads conferences have taken place at UC Berkeley and UC San Diego. Organizers said UC Merced was chosen to host this year’s UndocuGrads in part because of its central location.
As of Wednesday, 430 people from across the state had registered for the event, organizers said. These include UC, CSU, community college and high school students, as well as allies or supporters of undocumented students.
The deadline to register for the conference is Friday. To do so, or to find more information, go to www.undocugradsconference.wordpress.com.