My student experience with National Institutions Coming Out Day


By Alejandra Pérez – Society, Ethics, and Human Behavior & American and Ethnic Studies, University of Washington Bothell

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My name is Alejandra Pérez and I am an undocumented, unafraid, and unapologetic fourth year student at the University of Washington Bothell. I came out as an undocumented immigrant during my senior of high school and ever since, I have been fighting for equitable access to higher education for undocumented students by creating systemic change. Our first victory was gettting the University of Washington system to participate in National Institutions Coming Out Day (NICOD).

Leah Shelton, Assistant Director of Student Engagement and Activities (left) and Alejandra Pérez (right); they’re both holding up a sign that states: “We are proud to work with and for undocumented students.” This picture was taken at the National Institutions Coming Out event at the University of Washington Seattle on April 7th, 2015.

The University of Washington system made four commitments: 1. Create a tri-campus taskforce of educators and students to advocate for issues of undocumented students 2. Hire full-time professional staff at each campus to work with undocumented students 3. allocate physical spaces for undocumented students and 4. create a pipeline to graduate school for undocumented students.

On April 7th, 2015 the University of Washington system released a public statement in support of undocumented students.

A picture of the Quad located at the University of Washington Seattle, with a quote from Dr. Marissa Herrera, Director of Community Building and Inclusion at the University of Washington Seattle. The statement was released on NICOD April 7th, 2015 states.

Today, I want to call on you to challenge your institutions to publicly support undocumented students through creating systemic change by participating in NICOD. Here are some steps I took, to be successful during NICOD:

  1. Have a group of undocumented students identify the needs on your campus. This will help you decide which commitments you want your campus to fulfill.
  2. Create a letter asking your school to come out during NICOD in support of undocumented students. In the letter, you can state the current challenges that undocumented students face at your school and provide testimonies from undocumented students, for school officials to see the impact that NICOD will have at your school.
  3. Who can make these changes at your school? Request a meeting with school administrators who have the power to implement the commitments you requested. Send the letter ahead of time so that they can review and be prepared to answer your questions.
  4. Make sure undocumented students are in the decision making spaces sharing their stories and helping make decisions. Once they have discussed, ask them to give you a timeline to determine when the commitments will be fulfilled and who will be your point of contact.
  5. Remember, all this work should be student lead. Have your school send a public statement in support of undocumented students, followed by the commitments that the university agreed to .
    Overall, have fun! Because, making systematic change is always fun!

A picture of (right to left) Alejandra Pérez, President of the University of Washington Dr. Ana Mari Cauce, Larissa Reza Garcia who is an undocumented student at the University of Washington Seattle and a core member of the Washington Dream Coalition, and Dr. Gabriel Gallardo who is the Interim Vice President for Minority Affairs and Interim Vice Provost for Diversity, after a meeting that took place on January of 2016 to follow up on the commitments of NICOD.

About the Author

Alejandra was born and raised in Guatemala. Along with her mom and brother, Alejandra immigrated to the United States at the age of 12 to Los Angeles, CA. In 2009, her family decided to move to Seattle, WA for better opportunities. Ever since, Alejandra has made it her mission to provide resources and create equitable access to higher education for undocumented in Washington State. She has compiled a scholarship list, called Beyond Dreaming, that has over 300 scholarships for undocumented students in the state. She also is the Co-Director of the Beyond HB 1079 Conference, as well as a core-member of the Washington Dream Coalition. Alejandra also facilitates professional development trainings, called Undocu Advocacy Trainings, for educators across Washington State on how to best support undocumented students. Currently, Alejandra has earned twenty scholarships that is funding her education as fourth year at the University of Washington Bothell, double majoring in Society, Ethics, and Human Behavior & American and Ethnic Studies with a double minor in Education and Society & Diversity Studies. Alejandra will be the first person in her family to graduate from college, this June of 2016.


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