April 15, 2014
“Dreamer Dawgs” Witness REAL Hope Act Signing
Washington state Governor Jay Inslee called them “Dreamer Dawgs.”
They were a small group of University of Washington students representing all three campuses who traveled to Olympia on Feb. 26. They stood behind the governor with a UW flag unfurled and watched as he signed Senate Bill 6523 into law.
Also referred to as the REAL (Raising Educational Access, Changing Lives) Hope Act, the legislation extends State Need Grant funds to undocumented students to help pay for college. Previously known as the Washington Dream Act, it includes an additional appropriation of $5 million for the State Need Grant Program.
The “Dreamer Dawgs” were among hundreds of students and supporters on hand for the signing.
“It was a really nice thing,” said UW Seattle sophomore Graciela Nuñez. “It was really nice to see the students that were impacted by this. A lot of them were thinking, now I can finally go to college.”
Joining the UW students in Olympia were staff members from the UW Office of Minority Affairs and Diversity (OMA&D) including Vice President and Vice Provost Sheila Edwards Lange, Associate Vice President Enrique Morales, Kelly Ethnic Cultural Center (ECC) Director Marisa Herrera and Kelly ECC Assistant Director Maggie Fonseca.
“There is a lot more work to be done, but this is a great step for our state,” said Lange. “Investing in our young people is investing in our own success.”
Nuñez, who plans to double major in political science and international studies, has been an advocate for the bill and organizes a support group on campus for undocumented students. She is also the UW student representative on the Washington State Educational Access Coalition for HB 1079 Students.
Nuñez says that because so many undocumented students are first-generation and come from economically-challenged backgrounds, attending college isn’t even an expectation. But now that they can apply for financial aid, things are changing.
“It sets a spark off for information about a post-high school education,” she said. “It’s a really enlightening, exciting time for them.”
Less than a month after the bill was signed into law, OMA&D partnered with the UW Office of Student Financial Aid, Washington State Achievement Council and the Latino/a Educational Achievement Program to host an informational forum on its implications.
Around 100 students, staff and educators attended the event emceed by UW students Yuriana Garcia and Diana Betancourt. It featured presentations on financial aid application procedures and timelines, as well as available resources.
“I have been working with undocumented students for the last 10 years and I’m very excited for this new chapter in our state’s history,” Fonseca said. “The positive impact this will have on our students and their families is outstanding. I have seen a difference in our students since SB 6523 passed. There is a sense of relief, security and hope. It has been a long time coming and we are very excited to be a part of it.”
More information about the Washington Application for State Financial Aid (WASFA) is available at www.readysetgrad.org/wasfa.
Scenes from the REAL Hope Act Informational Forum:
Photos by Putri Hiendarto and Erin Rowley