The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

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Spreading their wings: CSUN holds its annual DREAM Undocu-Graduation

Graduating students were allowed to give 30-second speeches with their loved ones during the Undocu-Graduation ceremony on May 4th, 2024 in Northridge, Calif.

Hosted by the DREAM — Dreamers, Resources, Empowerment, Advocacy and Mentorship — Center, the annual Undocu-Graduation celebrates the accomplishments of undocumented and mixed-status students.

The DREAM Center provides various opportunities and resources for students to learn more about, such as scholarships, legal services and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA.

Irvin Rendon, the DREAM Center’s manager, says having ceremonies raises awareness and celebrates students.

“This serves as a symbol as an undocumented community that we are here at CSUN,” Rendon said.

Rendon co-hosted the event with Karen Castillo, Operations Supervisor of the DREAM Center.

According to The Education Trust, 22% of Latinos have earned some sort of college degree. Many of the participants at CSUN’s Undocu-Graduation are the first generation in their families to attend and graduate from a university.

The Undocu-Graduation started at 2 p.m. and lasted until 5 p.m. Students and families eagerly lined up, waiting to check in. As they checked in, they walked down a red carpet for a photo opportunity. Families were then ushered to their arranged seating to eat with fellow students.

Dark and navy blue tablecloths lined the tables, and a detailed program of what the ceremony would consist of lay on top of them. Performances by Tlanextli Tlacopan Aztec fire dancers and Ballet Folklorico — traditional dances of Mexico — were showcased.

Dr. William Watkins, Vice President for Student Affairs, gave a speech addressing the class of 2024.

“This is the opportunity to really love up on our graduates and let them know how important they are during these challenging times and experiences,” Watkins said.

The co-hosts, Rendon and Castillo, highlighted the keynote speaker of the ceremony, Ana Miriam Barragan Santoyo.

“Ana Miriam has been a trailblazer in the immigrant movement,” Rendon said.

Santoyo has been one of the members of Dreams To Be Heard, a student club for AB 540 students, and has also advocated for the establishment of the DREAM Center. She is currently serving as the Director of the Immigrant Justice Center at CSU Dominguez Hills.

“I really wish we had an Undocu-Graduation back then,” Santoyo said.

Two students spoke during the ceremony, those being DREAM Center members Diana Crespo-Muñoz and Yukyung Son. Crespo-Muñoz does legal advocacy for the DREAM Center’s Central American immigrant rights organization, CARECEN. Rendon said Crespo-Muñoz brought free legal services and consultations relating to citizenship to the CSUN community. Crespo-Muñoz is currently the president of Dreams To Be Heard and is graduating with bachelors in both Art and Chicano Studies. She will be applying to law school.

“I urge you all to continue to embrace the power of your voice since our experiences as undocumented and mixed-status individuals have dawned with a unique perspective, ” Crespo-Muñoz said.

Son, a music therapy major, will be interning at the Professional Child Development Association.

“As an undocumented student, the most important lesson I learned is advocacy for yourself, your place in your field and for your future,” Son said.

The graduating class was allowed to walk onto the stage with two of their guests. This tradition was to highlight the parents or loved ones who have supported them through their college careers. Once on stage, they were sashed by their loved ones with a DREAM Center sash that included monarch butterflies, which symbolize transformation and rebirth, and gave 30-second speeches. Most of them included tearful thank you’s to their parents for leaving their country, being undocumented in the United States and working hard to give them a better life.

CSUN is expecting to host another Undocu-Graduation next year for the graduating class of 2025.

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