The Brackenridge (BETC) and Harlandale Education and Training Centers (HETC) have led the Alamo Colleges District for nearly 20 years in providing direct assistance to undocumented students, including Dreamers, and their families in a friendly, welcoming, and bilingual (English/Spanish) environment. Serving as the link between the ACD and immigrant students, the Centers provide preliminary enrollment services with admissions, financial aid, basic skills assessment, career exploration, and registration in academic and workforce training pathways, including GED and VESL classes.
Name of Community College: Alamo Colleges District (ACD)(https://www.alamo.edu)
Title of Program: Brackenridge (BETC) and Harlandale Education and Training Centers (HETC).
Type of Program: BETC & HETC are the “Go To” and Welcoming Centers in the community that provides preliminary college enrollment services with admissions, financial aid, basic skills assessment, career exploration, registration in academic and workforce training pathways, and GED & Vocational English as a Second Language (VESL) classes.
Primary Division involved: The Centers are managed under the auspices of the ACD Economic & Workforce Division.
Key Partners: Our partners at the Centers include: St. Paul United Methodist Church, Harlandale Independent School District Parent Education Center, Community College Consortium for Immigrant Education (CCCIE), United We Dream (UWD), Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES), Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), Mi Familia Vota, American Gateways, Consulate General of Mexico in San Antonio, and the Immigration Liaison City of San Antonio. Our partnership list keeps growing.
Populations Served: Immigrants and undocumented students.
Immigration status required: All are eligible regardless of immigration status.
In this Article:
1. Need for Program
The Brackenridge and Harlandale Education and Training Centers are one-stop outreach and enrollment centers located in traditionally underserved communities and have successfully increased the recruitment of low- income, educationally disadvantaged, minority, and first-time-in-college students, many of whom are undocumented students. The Centers have been serving undocumented student Dreamers, named after the unpassed Development Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, since the beginning of the Texas Dream Act 2001-House Bill 1403. This legislation provides in-state tuition rates and state financial aid access to undocumented students enrolled in Texas public institutions of higher education.
2. Brief Description of Program
BETC and HETC have been leading the Alamo Colleges District for nearly 20 years in providing direct assistance in a friendly, welcoming, and bilingual (English/Spanish) environment.
Serving as the link between the ACD and our immigrant students, the Centers provide preliminary enrollment services with admissions, financial aid, basic skills assessment, career exploration, and registration in academic and workforce training pathways, including GED and VESL classes.
While the Centers closed to in-person visits during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Centers’ services continue to be conducted remotely via email, phone, and student zoom workshops. This level of service will continue in the Fall 2020 semester. With safety as the ACD’s priority, it is implementing a slow and careful return to college campuses and off-site education and training centers.
3. Specific Population Served
The student populations served by the Centers include GED & ESL students, returning adult students, returning to society & homeless individuals, first-time college students, foster youth, and undocu/DACA-mented students.
4. Goals and Objectives
Prior to 2012, the Centers primarily assisted undocumented student Dreamers with admissions, financial aid processing, and connecting them with local and national scholarship resources; however, in 2012 after the implementation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), the Centers, in collaboration with local community-based partners, expanded their services. Those additional services include referral for immigration legal services, especially for those families seeking legal guidance and support in applying for DACA. The Centers have hosted and facilitated numerous DACA and Immigration information sessions, legal clinics, and Know Your Rights workshops for hundreds of students, families, and community members. The Centers have served on average over 450 families a year.
Advocacy Efforts – In early 2017, with the rising concerns of student Dreamers and their families with the future of the DACA program, the limbo of the Dream Act legislation, and the passage of the Texas Senate Bill 4 (“show me your papers”) legislation, the Centers voiced concerns for their undocumented students. It was at this time that the Dreamers Advisory Council was formed as a district-wide cross-departmental council comprised of administrators, advisors, counselors, front-line staff, and faculty to coordinate campus resources and elevate the district and colleges’ message of support for the undocu/DACAmented students.
The first recommendation of the Council was a Resolution in Support for the Educational Success of Undocumented Student Dreamers, which was unanimously passed by the ACD Board in March of 2017 and reaffirmed in September of 2019. The ACD continues to oppose any state or federal legislation that would be detrimental to the educational success of Dreamers. The ACD leadership reiterated its support in a 2020 statement (https://www.alamo.edu/news–events/news/2020/06-june/acd-stands-with-the-supreme-court-on-preserving-daca/) for all internal and external partners.
The Alamo Colleges District has long recognized the vital role immigrants play in our nation’s success pre-COVID and will continue to as our country transitions from response to recovery during this pandemic. Dreamers at ACD have a course completion rate of 89.2% and a productive grade rate of 92.8%. In its “Resolutions of Support for the Educational Success of Undocumented Student DREAMers,” the ACD recognizes that the educational success of Dreamers is central to the college’s mission and the attainment of the state’s higher education and completion goals. It also states its opposition to any state or federal legislation that would curtail Dreamers’ education or negatively affect their contributions to local, state, and national economies. (See the district’s 2019 and 2017 Resolutions of Support on the DACA/Dreamers Resources webpage at https://www.alamo.edu/district/daca.)
The ACD, and our family of colleges- Northeast Lakeview College, Northwest Vista College, Palo Alto College, St. Philip’s College and San Antonio College, have worked to provide tools, resources, and programming available for our immigrant students. Some of our targeted outreach strategies and services include:
- A dedicated DACA/Dreamers Resources Webpage located at https://www.alamo.edu/district/daca/;
- Hosted and facilitated Dreamers Ally Trainings;
- Established within the Alamo Colleges Foundation a Dreamers Scholarship Fund;
- Partner with the Dream U.S. Scholars Program and Consulate General of Mexico’s Institute for Mexicans Abroad (IME) Becas Scholarship Program, providing scholarship resources for student Dreamers; and,
- Provide immigration legal referral services.
Other resources ACD provides where immigrant students are eligible and have benefited from enhanced services and programs include:
- Comprehensive enrollment support services;
- Access to our Advocacy Centers that provide counseling, advising, and advocacy Services including mental health healing and physical wellness;
- State financial aid assistance, including access to our student work-study program;
- Provision of Dual Credit/Early College High School Programs throughout the city and surrounding areas in partnership with local school districts;
- Established an expanded Summer Momentum Program (three to six FREE summer credit hours);
- Launching of the Alamo PROMISE Scholar Program (FREE college tuition for incoming high school graduates – (https://www.alamo.edu/promise);
- COVID-19 assistance:
- Extended WiFi in designated parking lots on colleges campuses;
- Promoted on-line learning, by checking out 7,500+ laptops and hotspots to students;
- Implemented the Keep Learning Plan to help students stay in college, including four major initiatives: Clean Slate, Expanded Summer Momentum, $1 Student Payment Plans, and No Cost Texas Success Initiative Student Testing; and,
- Created a Student Impact Fund to assist students with rent, utilities, food, healthcare, and loss wage.
(For further information on COVID-19 assistance, its impact, and these initiatives, visit: http://campaign.r20.constantcontact.com/render?ca=38cbb6b7-54be-478a9f74d086c21df4cc&preview=true&m=1116706322978&id=preview )
The following organizations provide guidance and support in various ways:
- CCCIE –Assistance with workforce education best practices
- United We Dream –Provision of Ally Training, Know Your Rights workshops, DACA, and legal assistance
- RAICES –Immigration Legal Assistance Clinics/Resources and Know Your Rights Workshops
- Mi Familia Vota –Citizenship Clinics
- American Gateways –Legal Assistance Clinics/Resources, Know Your Rights workshops, and Citizenship Clinics
- MALDEF –Understanding legislation as it relates to education
- Consulate General of Mexico in San Antonio –IME Becas Scholarship, Program and Know Your Rights outreach
- Immigration Liaison, City of San Antonio – Legal assistance, clinics/resources, Know Your Rights workshops, and Citizenship Clinics
7. Success Factors
The success of the Alamo Colleges and the Centers in all these initiatives previously mentioned requires allies and partnerships at all levels–internal, external, local, state, and nationwide to carry out the mission and values of empowering our diverse communities for success and to be the best in the nation in Student Success and Performance Excellence. The district’s tagline Dare to Dream, Prepare to Lead purposely encourages all students, employees, and the community, especially Dreamers, to build individual and collective futures with commitment and passion.
Hundreds of our undocumented students are indeed daring to live the American Dream despite the continued uncertainty of our immigration laws and systems. They remain steadfast in earning their degrees/certifications, successfully fulfilling their academic and career dreams. Our Dreamers contribute to our society and economy in so many ways. They are respectfully paying forward their successes and encouraging others that dreams can become reality. But as the wise African proverb states, “It takes a village to raise a child,” it indeed takes a strong partnership network and the collaboration of so many stakeholders to help our students, families, and community make it through. Therefore, as educators, it is so important that in all we do, we work together as a strong village to help our students succeed in reaching their dreams. Now more than ever, we must continue not only to support and guide our student Dreamers but also to speak up and advocate for equality and justice for all.
8. Challenges Faced
The concerns of our student Dreamers and families have been and, sadly to say, still are:
- Fear for their safety and that of their parents and siblings
- Daily anxiety that parents don’t make it back home after work and/or loss of work during this pandemic
- Contemplating on dropping out of college to go to work and help their families financially
- Considering moving but not sure where to or how safe that would be
- Feeling helpless and retreating back into the shadows
- Pondering on putting their education on hold
- Feeling they have worked so hard to lose what they have finally accomplished and not being able to continue to work
These student concerns and challenges have become opportunities for implementing and improving our student support services at the Alamo Colleges District and our Centers, as described in this document. Also, ACD has established clear U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) protocols in response to anti-immigrant legislation and measures and has shared resources to help schools and children impacted by ICE raids. (https://www.idra.org/resource-center/idra-infographic-10-strategies-for-how-schools-should-respond-to-help-children-impacted-by-ice-raids/).
9. Funding and Sustainability
BETC and HETC are funded 100% with institutional funds.
10. Contact Information
Name: Carmen De Luna-Jones
Title: Off-Site Coordinator of BETC & HETC and the Convener of the ACD DREAMers Advisory Council
Organization: Alamo Colleges District Brackenridge and Harlandale Education and Training Centers