Organization Gives VOICES to AB 540 Students

Andres Aguila

A conference was held by the V.O.I.C.E.S. organization on May 15 at GCC, where guest speakers discussed both AB-540 and the D.R.E.A.M. Act to uninformed students.

The meeting, which was open to the public, was geared toward informing Los Angeles high school students about AB 540. However, none were present.

John Kim, a college advisor from Belmont High School, said that due to budget cuts in LAUSD, high schools have been limiting the number of fieldtrips available to students, such as Belmont, where fieldtrips don’t occur on Fridays.

V.O.I.C.E.S., whose goal is to help students pursue future education and provide scholarships, first talked about its history and how the group started out with five members in 2005, and now have up to 40 in total.

GCC counselor Richard Cortes, talked about the situation of the DREAM Act, AB 540 and the facts about the many undocumented students who struggle to pay for college.

According to the National Immigration Law Center, the D.R.E.A.M. Act is ” a bipartisan legislation that addresses the situation faced by young people who were brought to the United States years ago as undocumented immigrant children, and who have since grown up here, stayed in school, and kept out of trouble,” which will help lesson the troubles of students who are not informed on such opportunities as AB-540.

AB-540 is a California law that was passed in 2002 by former California Rep. Marco Antonio Firebaugh. AB-540 gives eligible students who attend community colleges or public universities, whether documented or not, scholarships to help pay the out-of-state tuition prices.

“There are 25,000 undocumented students in the county alone,” said Cortes, “yet people are still not informed about it [AB-540].”

There are similar bills in 10 other states around the country like Texas, Utah and Washington.

In spite of that, California is still behind because unlike other states, they do not allow financial aid to be given to the qualified students.

“There are a lot of inconsistencies in our district [Glendale],” Cortes said, “that’s
why it is important to share the info with other faculties.”

Maria Rodriguez, a CHIRLA organizer, discussed the issues undocumented people are going through and the negative perspective they receive like “there is either the undocumented person who is a criminal or the undocumented person who isn’t.”

“There are undocumented people because there is no legalization program,” said Rodriguez.
And according to Rodriguez, the last time there was one was 23 years ago in 1986.

Rodriguez also discussed how there were different means for immigrants to become legalized, but those means usually take years (sometimes up to 15 years) before actually getting legalized.

Toward the end, VOICES members then had a committee to answer any questions anyone might have.

Kim then commented on how there are a lot of seniors from Belmont High School that go to GCC and that now “he knows why so many students come here.because the programs here are phenomenal!”

Brian Felix, V.O.I.C.E.S. co-president, then shared how V.O.I.C.E.S is developing a hard book for high school students, teachers and counselors so that they will be able to know how to prepare students who are ready to attend college.

“All these students are really trying to do is get an education,” said Felix, “Education is not a privilege, it’s a right.”

There was also a raffle ticket drawing that gave away such prizes as movie tickets and edible fruit arrangements, for those who helped contribute to the organization.

The conference then ended with a free lunch of “arroz con pollo,” or chicken and rice.

To find out more about V.O.I.C.E.S., meetings are held at AD 252 from noon to 1 p.m. on Tuesdays.