Wednesday, May 19, 2004 Latinos' dreams of education featured Latinos' dreams of education featured

Latinos' dreams of education featured

May 18, 2004 : 11:07 pm ET

DURHAM -- The cover of the magazine scheduled for distribution tonight during a presentation at El Centro Hispano sums up how it feels to be an undocumented immigrant living in Durham.

The image of an alien dressed like a middle school student next to an American flag was chosen by area Latino youths as a symbol of the daily struggle they face against stereotypes and language barriers.

They came up with the idea during an after-school program that lets Latino children explore their dreams about higher education. The program was created through a partnership between Jovenes Lideres en Accion, an offshoot of El Centro, and The Center for Documentary Studies (CDS) at Duke University.

The project, "The Dream Act: Portraits of Latino Youth Culture in Durham," let the students express themselves through documentaries. And the resulting series of presentations is aimed at raising awareness about the Dream Act, legislation currently pending in Congress that would make it easier for undocumented immigrants to attend higher-education institutions at in-state tuition rates.

If passed, the legislation would allow states to grant six-year conditional permanent resident status to students who have entered the United States before age 16, have been accepted into a two- or four-year institution of higher learning, have a high school diploma or GED, have "good moral character" as defined by immigration law and have no criminal record.

Johanna Franzel, a community documentary programs and documentary arts educator with CDS, said the presentation will focus on cultural differences between generations, common stereotypes and how Latino youths like to express themselves.

It will include slides made from photos that the students took of their families, schools and the places where they spend their free time, as well as interviews with Latino youths about what education means to them.

And "Vox Pops," a collection of two-minute audio snippets from question-and-answer sessions on such topics as individuality, self-expression and popular culture, will be played. The students also created the magazine, which depicts various aspects of Latino youth culture, including photo collages featuring such themes as "How I express myself," "What do you think are stereotypes about Latino youths?" and "What is your main goal?"

The students, who have been working on the project since February, also have been encouraged to take the magazine into their schools and communities, as well, to initiate a dialogue about the issues that they face.

"We're using it as a tool to put the pieces together," Franzel said. "We want to increase undocumented immigrant access to higher education."

Immigrants who are not U.S. citizens cannot apply to U.S. colleges before returning to their home country, getting a student visa and paying out-of-state tuition, she said.

Yesenia Polanco-Galdamez is a UNC student who has worked with Jovenes Lideres en Accion for three years. She hopes to encourage area residents to become active in pushing for the Dream Act, and build on the momentum created by "Latino Legislative Day," held in May 2003 at the N.C. General Assembly.

"This project is the first step in getting more youth involved," she said. "It will go as far as they want to take it."


What: "The Dream Act: Portraits of Latino Youth Culture in Durham"

When: 6 p.m. today

Where: El Centro Hispano, 201 W. Main St.

More information: Call 687-4635


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