Consistent rise in tuition fees fosters discussion on the affordability and value of college degrees

By: Ana Gabriela García

A report by the College Board, published earlier this semester on Oct. 24, announced that tuition and fees increased at Colleges and Universities across the nation by less than 2 percent between 2016-17 and 2017-18.

For non-profit four-year academic institutions, the increase in tuition fees was 1.9 percent. In dollars, the increase averaged $34,740 in 2017-18, after adjusting for inflation. Elon’s tuition fees are $34,273.

Elon’s tuition, along with that of other four-year institutions, has been rising consistently for six straight years, the report states.

“I get that all colleges and Universities have to increase tuition, but I think it’s sad to the people applying here that it limits them,” said Diego Pineda, an Elon junior.

Sourced: The Rice Thresher

Greg Zaiser, the vice president for enrollment at Elon University, believes that by maintaining a lower cost, Elon is accessible to a larger number of student applicants.

“Elon is working to keep cost increases at a minimum,” Zaiser said. “Our total cost is often $10,000 less than schools to which our students also apply.”

Many students believe that another factor that limits future applicants of less economic resources is the amount of financial aid and scholarships offered at the university.

“I don’t think the rising tuition impacts as much the students that it (Elon) attracts,” said Stef Milovic, a student at Elon University. “The availability of scholarships is more important in bringing a diverse socio-economic group of applicants.”

“One of the biggest things I think they should change is the amount of money the give for scholarships,” said Sophie Eng, an Elon student.

In fact, Sophie says she has experienced first-hand the effects that a good scholarship can offer students. Even though her brother’s tuition was more than half of Elon’s, the scholarship package given to her brother cut his tuition cost in half, ultimately making it the same as that of Elon’s.

From left to right: Sophie Eng, and Diego Pineda. Discussing Elon’s tuition and fees.

The increase has cumulated in a national debate on the affordability of higher education and the “return of investment” that college education offers undergraduate students. Although many people question the “return of investment” of a college education, many Elon students do not.

“I do think college is a good return on investment. This day and age it’s very difficult to find a job without a college degree,” says Grace Morris, a sophomore at Elon.

Morris believes the education that she receives at Eon’s Communications school is what makes her degree a definite return on investment.

“Especially at a school like Elon, where the Communications program is incredible, I feel like my degree is worth something even though it costs a lot.”

Milovic agreed with Morris on the value of her Elon degree, and also believes that the value of a degree is based, really, on what type of higher Ed institution a student goes to.

“Yes, I do think it is a sound return on my investment. For Elon, especially. They not only build an inclusive community, but even offer ample networking an professional opportunities that lead to future careers.”

Tuition at higher education not only impacts current, enrolled students, but also future applicants, as it continues to be an important deciding factor for future students looking at various four-year institutions.

“When I made a college decision it was based on money at the end of the day, because Elon gave me more money than other colleges I applied to,” says Pineada.

“My brother went to a more expensive school in New York, so that was a big deciding factor—my dad was really excited about that because it was half the tuition of my brother’s school,” said Eng.

Kat Blaque offers Elon students insight as social media influencer

By Ana Gabriela García | 11/14/17 5:52pm

 

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Kat Blaque was featured as the keynote speaker at this year’s Intersect Conference. Photo courtesy of Kat Blaque.

 

Last Saturday, the 2017 Intersect Conference keynote speaker, Kat Blaque, candidly addressed important, yet ignored topics on gender and sexuality, dating, growing up, failures and white supremacy.

The Intersect Conference is a two-day conference where participants, through education sessions and roundtable discussions, engage in dialogue, reflection and social justice. All topics discussed focus on the intersectionalities of diversity and leadership. “If…” was the main theme of the conference. Students from more than four different colleges and universities attended this year’s event.

Blaque, a social media influencer with 132,000 subscribers on YouTube and 199,000 on Facebook, began her keynote address explaining the desire to explore her own narrative after buying a knock-off Lisa Frank diary from her community’s catholic bookstore in elementary school.

“That’s when I started having a continuous conversation with myself,” Blaque said. The self-reflection ultimately led to her awareness of the ways in which she was different from most kids.

Before using YouTube, she used other platforms, such as Myspace, as a public diary. Later, she began using YouTube, on a $25 “rinky-dink” Logitech webcam, and began vlogging routinely. For Blaque, the power of YouTube was not in her ability to express herself, but rather in the empowerment it gave her.

“I started to recognize that social media had that ability to allow you to recreate yourself in many ways,” she said.

During her speech, Blaque also addressed the obstacles she faced as a transgender woman in college, a turbulent time where Blaque recognized that she wasn’t a queer person, but rather a trans person.

“I had this realization that I really had no responsibility to be the person I said I was the day before,” she said.

Blaque turned back to YouTube during this time, to talk about her concerns on transitioning and the stress of her college assignments. She also started ordering hormones online and began doing hormone update videos.

Knowing that the world around her didn’t fully accept her, Blaque decided to be “stealth” in college. “Stealth” means to live in a situation where the people around you do not know you are trans. In this way, Blaque existed without being thought of solely in regards to her transgender status.

“As a trans-person, sometimes you just hate having to go through life with your trans-ness being the thing, — the first thing — that people talk to you about,” she said. “Believe it or not, trans people do exist for more things than being trans.”

Staying “stealth” also allowed her to not be laughed at or rejected from a job opportunity, something which occurred many times before Blaque changed her gender marker and “dead name,” otherwise known as her birthname. In addition, Blaque no longer had to email her teachers and explain to students her real name and gender.

Today, her internet presence extends weekly more than 4 million people. The south California native is also an animator and illustrator who contributes to Everyday Feminism, Pride.com and The Huffington Post.

Before, during and after her speech, students tweeted responses to Blaque. Elon University junior Carolina Ferreyros tweeted in response to Blaque:

“@kat_blaque is apparently my spirit animal, she walked to steak n shake last night and is going to cookout later, can’t wait to hear what else she has to say.”

Her unabashed and insightful take on difficult and personal topics, something which undoubtedly rose her to fame, kept students, faculty and staff engaged throughout her talk.

“The intersect conference’s decision to choose Kat Blaque as the keynote speaker shows that they are truly dedicated to diversity in all its forms,” said junior Raechel Brunson whom attended this year’s event.

Looking for Citizenship in The City upon a Hill

By Ana Gabriela García

 

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Quote from, Tito, one of the Dreamers interviewed in this story.

“Five years ago, we as a country told 800,000 young people who came here when they, on average, were six years old: ‘Come out of the shadows, allow us to fingerprint you, allow us to take the picture, give us your address, tell us where your parents live.’ said Vanessa Bravo, assistant professor of communications at Elon University.

We told them: ‘Come forward, get out of the shadows, give us all the information.’ Now we are telling them: Just joking, and we can deport you.”

On January 2017, president Donald Trump re-ignited the discourse on immigration reform, when he issued the executive order for ‘Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States.’ This order rescinds Obama’s 2012 executive order for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA.

The rescinding of DACA surfaced issues related to the human rights and privileges of Dreamers, those protected under DACA, the powers, policies and capabilities of U.S.’s immigration law and the capacities of immigration enforcement agents.

“I think as a country, that’s not who the United States is supposed to be,” Bravo said.

What is DACA?

DACA uses deferred action to give illegal aliens who came to the U.S. before the age of sixteen certain benefits that had otherwise been denied to them by law, such as the eligibility to request employment authorization. Deferred Action means that prosecutorial discretion is to be applied only on an individualized case-by-case basis.

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Information sourced from the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services Website

A person whose case has been deferred cannot unlawfully reside in the United States, nor can deferred action give an immigrant lawful status.

DACA Recipients

National Numbers

“I always grew up, with the basic knowledge of the fact that, ‘hey, you’re not a regular person. You are a quote-on-quote ‘illegal’. People don’t think of the psychological toll that puts on people.”

“I always grew up,” Tito, a 20-year-old Dreamer, and activist, says, “with the basic knowledge of the fact that, ‘hey, you’re not a regular person. You are a quote-on-quote ‘illegal’. People don’t think of the psychological toll that puts on people.”

The United States’ immigration population is 40.7 million people, according to a report by Nolan G. Pope. It is the largest immigrant population of any nation in the world. The U.S. also has four times as many foreign-born residents than any other country, and many of it’s immigrant youth and former DACA recipients came to the U.S. around the age of six.

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Information sourced from the Pew Research Center

Many experts, immigrants, and citizens alike claim that DACA recipients and Dreamers, having grown up in the U.S. for the majority of their life, are just as American as native-born citizens. Carla Mena, a 27-year-old Peruvian-born Dreamer and activist who grew up in North Carolina says that she is a southern-bred American, who even knows the colors and the design of Raleigh’s flag.

“We have all these things that we grew up with, that are so ingrained within ourselves.” Mena said. “We’re so loyal to this country that is so not loyal to us. And that is so wrong.”

Bravo’s beliefs align with Mena’s. She says,

“These [DACA recipients] are Americans, it’s just that they weren’t born in the United States. But by any other mean, they consider themselves American. They grew up in this country.”

“I think it’s about human dignity,” Carla says, “and I think we have been so removed from that at this point, and I hope that a Dream Act passes or a comprehensive immigration reform passes. We have done so much and I think it’s time for us to be recognized and be elevated, instead of being told we’re not wanted here.”

DACA in North Carolina

In the last three decades, North Carolina has experienced one of the fastest growing immigrant populations in the U.S. In 2000 this population rose to 7.6% from 5.3% in 1990. In 2015, the American Immigration Council reported that 7.9% of the population (794,684 people) were immigrants.

A 2013 fact sheet produced by Noth Carolina’s Budget & Tax Center found that in Alamance County, specifically, 7.3% of the residents are immigrants.

In fact, according to a study by The Latino Migration Project University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, NC was the state that sent the highest number of DACA applications in 2012 and 2014. 75% of an estimate of 26,000 eligible unauthorized immigrants in the state applied, and 21,389 of those applications were accepted.

Despite the growing numbers of immigrants, some of which are recruited by industries looking for foreign-born individuals, the legal means of entering the country, ergo the state, have diminished. The percent of unauthorized immigrants in this state is nearly double that of the national rate, 26%. It is estimated that in 2012 about 44% of the immigrant population in North Carolina (350,000 people) did not have legal immigration status.

DACA’s impact on the state was significant not only because of it’s large population but also because it helped stop the state from almost consistently passing restrictive legislation aimed at immigrants. The 2006 North Carolina Driver’s License Law, for instance, which barred immigrants from obtaining a driver’s license, was replaced soon after DACA in 2012 when the state passed a law that enabled recipients to apply for driver’s licenses.

Economic Breakdown

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Information sourced from the Pew Research Cente

The Nolan G. report found that 3.6% or 11.4 million of these immigrants have no lawful legal status within the country — and therefore suffer greater economic challenges than other residents. 

Moreover, immigrants contribute greatly to North Carolina’s economy. The same 2013 fact sheet produced by North Carolina’s Budget & Tax Center reported that immigrants make up both one in ten laborers ages 18 to 64 and one in ten of the state’s small business owners.

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Information sourced from New American Economy

 

The Powers & Limitations of DACA

DACA’s impact on immigrant communities in the U.S. was, for the most part, a positive one. It was successful in that it integrated immigrants further into the American economic and social spheres that were once prohibited to them, for lack of basic facilities and tools, such as driver’s licenses and social security numbers.

For instance, while Mena was getting her undergraduate degree at Meredith College, she only used her car for basic necessities: work and school. And she never drove at night, for fear of being pulled over.

Talking about her experience under DACA, Carla calls for recognition of undocumented people working towards rights. [Photo by Jackie Pascale].JPG

Carla Mena and Tito address a DACA panel hosted by Elon University. Sourced from ENN.

“I turned 21 reading for my organic chemistry class,” Mena said. “There was no partying in my life that really happened because I was too scared to drive. And I had to be okay with that. Because that was my reality and I had one goal: I needed to graduate from College and that’s all. So I did.”

While DACA did help her get a job after college and advance in her professional and personal life, both she and Tito knew that the program was still not representative of comprehensive immigration reform. Tito states that,

“Something like DACA… we all know is not a solution, we also know that it did not even offer a pathway to citizenship or anything like that, it just offered the basic ability to own a driver’s license, and to work and to go to school. The fact that we’re fighting so hard for just this, it says so much.”

“The fact that we’re fighting so hard for just this, it says so much.”

In addition to DACA not providing Dreamer’s with a pathway to citizenship, it also could not work as a replacement for a VISA.

“People who had DACA had to pay an additional three hundred and sixty-some additional dollars, whatever it was, to ask for permission to leave this country,” Mena said. “And then on the way back, we would have to pray and hope that the immigration agent will let us back in.”

Tito remarks on the frustrations that this misconception brings him presently when he lobbies.

“One of the most frustrating things ever is every time I go lobbying or try to talk to my representatives, they look at me straight in the face and they’re like: ‘Why haven’t you become a citizen yet? I’m trying to explain to them that I can’t even get a driver’s license and they’re over here asking why I’m not a citizen.”

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Information sourced from the Pew Research Center

 

When DACA was implemented, there was no government-sponsored or funded legal infrastructure to assist immigrants in the process of applying for DACA. Immigrants heavily relied on non-profit organizations, like the North Carolina Justice Center (NCNJ) based in Raleigh, to help them in circumventing obstacles, like the affordability of legal assistance, when enrolling.

Many immigrant communities, who were out of reach of non-profits, were targeted by ‘notarios,’ unlicensed individuals who practiced fraudulent law.

Money played a big role in being able to enroll in DACA. It cost close to five hundred dollars to apply to be a DACA recipient. Mena was one of the thousands of unauthorized immigrants who worried about not being able to get the money to apply.

“They were two of us, my brother and I,” Carla said. “That’s almost a thousand dollars. And we all know, as people of color, we don’t have money laying around.”

What was most baffling to her about the DACA enrollment process was that she needed to write an essay explaining why she needed to work and then pay additional for that in order to apply for work authorization. The total application ended up costing Mena close to five hundred dollars.

“You need to pull money from the places you don’t have,” Mena said. “And then help your community, to make sure no lawyer, no ‘notario’ was making money off of the backs of people that had been suffering for years.”

One of the biggest obstacles Dreamer’s faced when enrolling for DACA, other than the ‘notarios,’ was providing the government papers that proved they had come to the United States as early as 16, lived there ever since and were living in the U.S. at the time of the announcement of DACA’s implementation.

 

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Information sourced from the Pew Research Center

This was a difficult request for the immigrant community. Undocumented immigrants, for evident reasons, avoid interactions with institutions and agencies that provide them with any document or indication of their unofficial presence in the United States.

Mena herself remembers running to Bank of America to make a deposit when she learned of this criteria. This bank account was the first receipt, the first tangible piece of evidence that she had been living the U.S.

“I had to prove to America that I had been here,” Mena said. “Because at some point I was trying to be under the radar, and at that moment, I had to prove that I had been here.”

 Waiting in Line

For Tito, “The biggest misconception of all is people’s concept of the U.S. immigration system. It does not work in a line, it doesn’t even work in general. It takes like twenty years for someone to even be considered for residency.”

 Perhaps the reason why dialogue surrounding immigration offers very few or unsatisfactory solutions is because it is convoluted and misinformed. The conversations that seem to be suffering most from this lack of understanding are those regarding the attainment of citizenship and the attainment of visas or green cards to enter the country legally.

“The great myth around immigration is that you could just get in line and wait for your turn to come.”

“The great myth around immigration is that you could just get in line and wait for your turn to come,” said Heather Scavone, the director of the Humanitarian Immigration Law Clinic.

Very few immigrants have neither: the strict requirements to attain a visa or green card, which include having excellent credit, owning property and a business, and which vary depending on the country they come from. Nor the avenues to obtain the status of permanent residency and then citizenship.

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Infromation sourced from Pew Research Center

 

Citizenship status is in fact mainly given to people as a result of a very specific circumstance. Including, familial or professional relationships, or misfortunes, like being a victim of a serious crime or being persecuted for one’s religion or race in one’s country of origin.

Bravo concurs with Scavone on this.

“There is no back of the line. If you don’t qualify for those few categories, you just don’t qualify.”

Additionally, where there is a line, it often tends to be too long.Heather recalls her own experience with “line,” specifically the one in immigration courts.

Scavone recalls her own experience with “line,” specifically the one in immigration courts.She was representing a Guatemalan woman with a group of Elon Law students in March of 2015 and found out that the only time available to calendar a hearing for the woman was in November of 2019.

Scavone argues that these extremely strict and specific pathways to becoming a citizen are the main reason why the United States needs to rethink its legal immigration structure through comprehensive reform.

“For 99 percent of the world’s population there is no line to get in.” Scavone said.

Doing it Right

Debates on immigration often include the rhetoric of ‘if you’re going to get your papers, or going to enter the United States, do it right.’ This rhetoric steers the conversation away from the true and more important question underlying debate on immigration: Is there a way to ‘do it right?’

“There is no right way, because it’s under the discretion of a person, however they feel at that moment.”

– Carlos

 It took Carlos, the pseudonym of a former DACA recipient, Elon student and Marine veteran, the majority of his teenage years to fight to attain his social security, work permit and then, finally, his residency.

Ironically, if ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) agents and the police had not threatened to deport his mother, their family would never have been able to claim their status as residents. Because after she was stopped by ICE, his mother was forced to fight a tormenting and lengthy legal battle to achieve political asylum.

Yet, while took Carlos years to attain his residency, the process to get his citizenship lasted only three days. It was all thanks to the first sergeant of his platoon in the marines, who began the procedure to get Carlos his citizenship the very same day he found out Jorge was only a resident.

“I was chilling in my room… I had my camouflage pants, my socks with my chanclas on, my t-shirt, playing my FIFA game,” Carlos said. “And then all of a sudden I hear somebody calling the first sergeant and asking for me. I jumped out of my couch and ran.”

Carlos was already a seasoned marine and had just signed up for his four-year contract as a team leader, overseeing three marines. He had completed his boot camp at Paris Island, done his AP Hill training and went to the Majove Viper desert in California.

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Is this what it means to ‘Do it Right?’ And if it does, why does his path to citizenship, substantiated with the credibility of legal battles and military service, feel like a circumstance of luck?

Had deployment to Afghanistan not been around the corner, would the sergeant have checked his papers and found out he was undocumented?

Had his mother not been stopped by ICE, would he had ever gained the residency status that allowed him to join the marines in the first place?

“Let me tell you about doing it right,” Carlos says. Next to him are Tito, Mena and Christina, three undocumented young people who were discussing immigration policies, officers and their experiences.

“It’s not true,” Tito says before Carlos can continue speaking. But it doesn’t matter that Jorge was interrupted because it’s true and everyone at the table knew it.

“The credentials for you to come here varies,” Carlos says, “according to the country you are from.”

“The poorer your country is, the less likely you are to come here,” Tito says.

Mena argues that the likelihood of entering the united states and gaining citizenship varies depending on the day and the immigration officer attending the specific case.

When Mena and her family first went to apply for their visas in the American embassy in Peru, they were told ‘not today’ by the immigration officer.

Then, after finally getting their visas in Peru, one of ten years for her mother and two of five for her brother and herself, an immigration officer at Miami International, changed their visas to last three months each.

Mena still hasn’t been able to get her citizenship, and now with the rescinding of DACA, her situation is more precarious than ever. Yet, her argument on the power of immigration officers is resounding, and everyone at the table nods.

“There is no right way,” Carlos says, referring to coming to the U.S. legally, “because it’s under the discretion of a person, however they feel at that moment.” Immigration officers have too much power, Carlos believes, and act like persecutors and judges. Jorge also makes the comparison to the current issues that law enforcement has with abusing their power.

Immigration officers have too much power, Carlos believes, and act like persecutors and judges. Carlos also makes the comparison to the current issues that law enforcement has with abusing their power.

“It’s kind of like what’s going on right now with the police force. They have three or four jobs. They are ICE agents, they are persecutors, they are judges.”

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TAKING THE FIRST STEPS FORWARD AFTER THE RESCINDING

Tito clears his begin speaking at Elon’s DACA panel.

“My name is…” And he pauses.

“…one of the illegal aliens that y’all hear about all the time, because that’s who we’re known as.”

His dry and sometimes dark wit is not fully understood by all the audience members. His point, however, comes across clearly.

“We’re in this room,” He says, “because of lack of basic, mutual, human understanding. The reason why we have to sit here and explain to y’all why our existence matters or why our lives are important or why we deserve to have basic human rights, and to be valued and to be allowed to own a drivers license or be able to work is all because of the dehumanization and criminalization of our community.”

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How do citizens work with their communities to bring back basic, mutual human understanding? Jessica Carew, assistant professor of political science at Elon University, believes that we should be working to eliminate certain harmful narratives surrounding immigrants. The diction used in immigration discourse can affect the way we think about individuals who might seem to be in violation of the law.

“It is really important that we are working to say, hey, those individuals who are on DACA are hardworking and they are contributing to society.” Carew said.

“However,” she says, “[…] we’re setting up this strange dynamic in covering it this way, as our public discourse regarding DACA enrollees, and that’s because if you say these DACA individuals are the good people, then we set up for ourselves in society the idea that any other people who are undocumented are not the good people.”

“… if you say these DACA individuals are the good people, then we set up for ourselves in society the idea that any other people who are undocumented are not the good people.”

Taking Action

For Mena, what allies should be doing is actively finding out, on a person-to-person basis, the way DACA has affected her and the larger immigrant community. The humanity of it, the clear and palpable distress and pain that lack of immigration reform has caused, will motivate allies to protest and work alongside Dreamers to attain reform.

“You need to make sure you find out what I’ve gone through, what he’s gone through, what all my other friends have gone through because that will enrage you,” Mena said.

Heather also believes that citizens are instrumental in the fight for comprehensive immigration reform, and should physically and visibly support non-citizens. Since, she believes, that citizens are protected in a way that non-citizens are not.

“If you think about it, non-citizens, in terms of their advocacy abilities, have more to lose and more to risk by going out in the open and protesting and being politically visible,” Scavone said. “So visibly supporting non-citizens is one thing that can do. And doing that by supporting legislation that’s going to help individuals with an outcome akin to the Dreamer legislation.”

 For Carla and many other Dreamers, the rescinding of DACA didn’t put an end to the fight for comprehensive reform, it re-ignited it.

“There’s no reason to stop fighting.” She claims. “Yes, maybe there will be deportation procedures. From now until those six months we got a lot of work to do so that we’re not in deportation procedures.”

“There’s no reason to stop fighting.”

 

Behind Every Great Immigration Reform Movement, There is a Great Activist

By Ana Gabriela García

Carla A Mena

Carla A. Mena

Carla A. Mena, 27, is the daughter of a Peruvian Caterer and a laborer. She considers herself to be equal parts Peruvian and American. Specifically, Southern. “Who even likes unsweetened tea?” Carla asks, seriously. “Why would you even do that?” Assimilating wholly into the U.S. and giving up her Peruvian customs, as the Attorney General suggested, is as unthinkable to her as rooting against Chelsea FC in a soccer match. “I don’t want to and I am not going to.” Carla says

Carla spends her time teaching young women in transitional homes sex education. This allows her to merge her professional life with her passion for health education and her strong sense of civic duty. It also allows her to not arouse suspicion for carrying a Ziploc bag filled with condoms and Styrofoam molds of male genitalia.

In addition to her main profession, she does research at Duke University and is on the board of many organizations, such as: Wake up Wake county, ALPES (Alianza Latino Pro-Education Salúd), The Campaign for Southern Equality, and El Pueblo Inc. at Raleigh.

Since 2004, she has advocated for the rights of Latinos and Immigrants in the U.S. Not only was she part of a generation of undocumented residents that lived through various failed attempts at immigration reform, but she was also at the forefront of all three of the biggest reform movements. The 2008 Reform Immigration for America Act, The 2010 Dream Act and the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

Precisely how long has she been campaigning for reform?
“For too long, obviously,” Carla says.

The Road to Becoming an Activist

Carla was introduced to the world of activism and advocacy as a result of her mother’s worst migraine attack. It happened three years after Carla and her family moved to the U.S. They had never needed a doctor before this migraine, so they had never been to one. Finding a clinic for her mother took hours of flipping through yellow pages and white pages and newspapers until they found one.

It was in this clinic where Carla and her mother met the “Líderes de Salud,” a group of women that promoted healthy habits and well-being in the Latino community. A group which her mother would later become a part of.

Carla’s eyes are the brightest thing in the room when she reminisces sitting through the group’s meetings, crowded by adults. To Florence, the woman in charge of ‘Líderes de Salud,’ Carla seemed to show much interest in health education and in advocacy. Most of all, she seemed to be perfect for their youth program, ‘El Pueblo.’

“I guess Florence saw something in me… and that’s all I needed… and I’m really thankful for that.”

This youth group honed Carla’s leadership skills. El Pueblo had its own conferences to highlight the group’s goals and how to achieve them. It also joined forces and coordinated events with other groups. With help from a health and wellness grant, El Pueblo began a “No Fuma” tobacco prevention program. Eventually, with the group’s persuasion, many restaurants became tobacco-free.

The Beginnings of Immigration Reform

Three years later, when RIFA made immigration reform an imperative goal and possible reality in 2008, Carla had already developed the skills needed to protest and advocate.

The Reform Immigration for America Act, RIFA, was the first viable proposal introduced to Congress and the community of undocumented residents in the United States. It was also the quickest to fail. For Carla, the reason was simple. “RIFA was citizens trying to tell undocumented people what to do, and not taking us into account,” She said. “And you can’t do that.”

“If you don’t know what your community looks like and how it works, then you can’t get anywhere.”

The Fight Continues

After this failure, there came the Dream Act, which proved to be an equally disappointing battle. And a very arduous one for Carla and her coalition.

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Carla and coalition members during a demonstration. It alludes to senator Hagan’s promise of education for all North Carolinians

Everywhere she goes, Carla takes with her the memory of her and her coalition’s fight for the Dream Act. It is in the confidence of her voice when she speaks. It is in the pride that she expresses for her friends and her community. It is in the dedication and effort she puts in “El Pueblo” today, helping and mentoring the undocumented youth. It is in the vivid details she remembers of Hagan and her time campaigning.

“Her whole campaign was based on ‘S. Hagen for the education of all North Carolinians.’ Like I even know her damn slogan.” Carla said.

For weeks they went to Hagan’s town halls, waited to speak with her staffers, took four and a half hour drives to DC. They dressed up in graduation caps and gowns and stood silent, with white cloth tied around their mouths. She hung “Call Hagan” posters around her neck. Protestors who went to the frontlines ran the threat of being arrested for civil disobedience. Many did.

But this wasn’t enough. Carla said, “She just did not care, she did not stand for what she said she did. Her website said all over that she stood for education, and if that’s what she was standing for then I don’t know why she would leave us out.”

Carla’s most powerful attempt to get Senator Hagan’s attention, and vote, was a fast for two weeks. Three of her fellow coalition members followed the fast with a hunger strike in downtown Raliegh. Senator Hagan’s only response was to tell the group to not stop eating. To Carla, it was an offense on Hagan’s part to say that the Dream Act wasn’t worth doing a hunger strike. “Because it was our lives on the line. And she’s thinking that it’s not worth it.” Carla said.

 “She (Senator Hagan) was one of the last people that shut it down and vote ‘No.’ And I will never forget that moment.”

A Silver Lining

In 2012, these bleak moments were finally followed by one semi-successful achievement, DACA, or the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Act. It lasted 4 years and allowed over 600,000 undocumented immigrants to apply for jobs and to institutions of higher education.

Carla said that “When it was signed a lot of us said: ‘we’re finally able to breathe a little bit better.’ And we hadn’t been able to breathe in a long time.” To breathe, for Carla and many others, meant to be able to drive with a license, to not be afraid of getting sick for lack of medical insurance, to exist without the constant fear of being deported.

DACA, for Carla, brought the feeling of being validated. “We wanted to exist for a minute. At least I did.” She confesses. “I wanted to be able to just be for a second.”

DACA also brought Carla a sense of achievement, a feeling somewhat like pride. Since it was a result of the pressures that immigration activists put on Barack Obama. Carla said, “I mean Obama didn’t wake up and was like, ‘Oh, I’m going to do this because I’m a good person.”

Starting Again

Its repeal by President Donald Trump did not surprise Carla and her coalition. “This was not a permanent solution.” Carla said. Meaning, it was never a path to citizenship. There is in her a deep regret for what has happened. Not for the repeal, but for having let her guard down, for waiting until ’45’ (as she refers to the President) got elected to do something about DACA.

But, Carla said, “we take care of more than just ourselves. We take care of our families.” And maybe that is why she and many others had, for a few years, let their guards down.

“We have had to pick up where we left off, or where some of us hadn’t left off.”

Carla has gained much insight from her time being at the forefront of all three reforms “At this point, we’ve learned what has worked, how we need to tackle things.” Carla said. For her, things seem oddly hopeful. Immigration might not be a new story, but this time it’s different Carla said. “More people seem to be on the bandwagon.”

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Carla and her Coalition advocating for the 2010 Dream Act, they will all  have to pick up where they left off.

The Reason People Listen

When Carla talks, everyone listens. Carla’s words aren’t boisterous or arrogant. Her voice is laced with dry humor and holds a meticulous patience that comes from having to endlessly narrate your experiences to panels, government officials, colleagues, friends, and people within your own community.

Tito, a fellow advocate and close friend, said that Carla and all dreamers are expected to repeat their stories, “because some people feel like we owe them that explanation.” Carla explodes in laughter after this comment, the same welcome surprise of when she saw him say it on live television overcoming her.

But that is part of educating people. Of using your voice and your story to represent countless others who are unable to tell their own. It is also part of the burden of representing your community. Within Carla’s rhetoric lie many voices.

Documented residents, white people, they have privilege in general, but they also have the privilege to surround me, Carla argues. This is especially true when it comes to the misconception of what undocumented residents look like. Many Carla’s white friends assume or have assumed that she is a citizen. Often because of who she is or where she is in her professional career.

“If I had for some reason not been around and they hadn’t been around me, then they would continue to have the misconception of what we look like.” Carla said.

“It’s not so much about how they can change me, but how I can change them.”

The Fruits of Activism

Carla is representative of the great changes an activist can bring about on both a national scale and more importantly, on a person-to-person scale. Her advocacy work awakens a sense of civic duty and responsibility outside of and within her own community.

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Carla Mena holds a sign durign a rally, while a father and his daughter embrace.

An Elon student, Dreamer and Veteran approaches Carla after he sees her speak at a panel about Daca. He remembers when DACA was just a rumor, and he remembers seeing Carla’s and Tito’s efforts on Television. “I got here in 1995, and I seen all these movements, I’m 31 years old.” He tells her. “That’s why, when I heard you talk, you amazed me… because everything that I was seeing on TV, it was all you. And him (Tito) too.”

It wasn’t just amazement that Carla gave him, it was also the will to use his voice to empower others and to push for immigration reform. He told her, “Now that I heard you, I heard him and I heard others, I’m like, ‘you know what, If they are able to do that sacrifice, why do I have to pull back?”

“Me being a veteran, I think the war that these guys fought it has such a great merit. Because it takes a lot of skill, courage to come out and talk and to go through this type of movement. It’s… my salutes to you.” – Elon Student, Veteran and Dreamer

Cristina, a sophomore and undocumented student at Elon University, also praised Carla after seeing her speak about DACA, she said, “I am so glad I met you. I was seeing this stuff on TV, and I was young, I didn’t know that I was undocumented. Then to meet you and to know that you were doing that and that I was watching it on TV it’s like, damn.”

Carla identifies as many things: American, Southern, Peruvian, a woman, an undocumented citizen. By everyone around her, she is identified as a fighter, as someone who incites change.

Students Fill their Bellies at Elon’s Food Truck Frenzy

By Ana Gabriela García

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Students Mackenzie Walsh, Hannah Dobrogsz and friends at today’s Food Truck Frenzy.

The Food Truck Frenzy event, sponsored by Elon Dining and the Student Union Board is back, and during this midterm week. The stressful environment on campus was assuaged by colorful food, music and fragrant smells.

The essentials to relieve stress were all present today at the Koury Lot, fried food, sugar, laughter, and friends.

The food trucks served a wide variety of foods from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. to Elon students and faculty.

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Student gets Indian Food at Tara

By 11:30 students had swarmed the area. Hannah Dobrogosz, a sophomore, said it was her first time coming.

“It’s really good,” Dobrogosz said, taking a bite from her Arroz Con Pollo, ACP, ordered from the Mexican Grill Foodtruck.

“I’m gonna get a second ticket.” She said.

Among the many food trucks participating in the event was “Bam Pow Chow,” Mexican Grill, Pelican’s SnoBalls, Jam Soft Serve Ice Cream, Soon Soom Pita Pocket, Tazaa and Tootie’s.

Jake West, a former tour manager in the music business turned chef, took me behind the scenes to talk about his truck, “Dusty Donuts, Mini Donuts.”

Sebastian Vallejo, a junior at Elon, had a wide grin on his face as he ate his ACP. “It’s my multiple time,” he said referring to his countless trips to the trucks, “I don’t know how many times I’ve been here.”

When asked what he loved about his ACP, which his friend was also devouring, he said, “It’s easy to make, it’s delicious. Not so filling so that’s good. So I have enough space for other food.” he laughed.

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Sebastian Vallejo eagerly eats his ACP.

Students were able to buy pre-purchased tickets or buy them on-site at the event using Elon Meal Dollars, Food Dollars, Phoenix Cash or regular cash or credit card. One ticket can be purchased for $6, three for $15 and five for $20.

Lakeside dining hall was closed during lunch because of the event. However, Colonnades and retail food locations remained open.

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Burlington’s Big Issue of Economic Inequality Surfaces in Mayoral Primary

By Ana Gabriela García

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A volunteer talks to a Burlington resident in front of polls.

The town of Burlington this humid afternoon was doted with “I voted” stickers and last minute candidature brochures as people got ready eliminate one of the three mayoral candidates. Which are Celo Faucette, Craig Deaton and Ian Baltutis

Each candidate had differing platforms, however the concerns of voters were mostly centered around the same thing: Burlington’s issue of economic inequality.

Priscilla Starling, an energetic woman handing who spent her afternoon handing out mayoral brochures and pens in the entrance of the polls, said: “Everybody is always worried about the economy. How do we make it better?” She then referenced the grand economic disparity between the east and west side of Burlington, which many other voters reiterated throughout the day.

According to DATA-USA, the median house-hold income in Burlington is $36,140, which is less than the median average income in the United States.

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Information given by DATA USA

It is interesting to note that region, ethnicity and gender were the main factors for economic disparity in the city.

For instance, males earn 1.21 percent more than their female counterparts. And Asian or Asian-American residents earn more than their caucasian and black or African-American counterparts with a salary between 61,400 and 27,193. Black or African Americans earned the least of all their counterparts, earning a salary between 28,218 and 3,314.

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Orange= White | Green=Asian |Orange=Black/African-American | Teal=Multi-racial | Purple=Unknown| Blue=Other/Native American | Mustard=American Indian|

Bryan, a longtime resident of Burlington who attended UN Chapel Hill commented that he believed one of the biggest issues was “Economic development on the east side of Burlington.” For him, a roadblock preventing the east-side from advancing economically is the lack of diverse voices and perspectives in the local government.

“It’s tough if everyone on the board lives in the same neighborhood.”

Bryan championed the current mayor Baltutis, as he “is probably the most out of character historically. I think he’s trying to bring a more inclusive voice to the community. I think he’s fairly forward thinking.”

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Map of Income by location in Burlington, NC.

Bobbie Mcmillan, the assistant director of nursing at Cone Health, who has lived in Burlington for 30 years, also said that the biggest issue facing the town was “Growth. We need to revitalize some areas.” When asked which ones, she referred, as many others did, to the east.

The region is one of the most important determinants of income in Burlington.

In the east side Burlington, communities with medium wages of 23,759, 29,741 and 32,865 are right next to smaller, more concentrated communities with medium wages of 82,837, and 65,203.

On the west side of Burlington, there are only two medium income brackets 49,602 to the north and 57,436 to the south.

Unlike Bryan, Bobbie believed that Facuette was the candidate that “has vision for our city. I think he has a handle for what we need in our community.”

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Voters usually bring their children, young nephews or grandchildren along with them to the polling station.

The Candidates respective platforms, as explained in detail below, are varied and showcase their very different personalities and perspectives on Burlington’s needs.

Yet, all candidates share one striking similarity. They do not address the ways in which income is distributed in regards to regional, gendered and ethnic/racial differences within the city.

  • Celo Faucette is mayor pro tem, and thus already holds a place on the City council. Faucette’s main campaign promise and goal as Mayor is to revitalize east Burlington, keep governmental costs at a low and introduce a mass transit system to the Burlington area.
  • Craig Deaton is a local businessman with a passion for God, who uses Facebook as his main platform for campaigning. His platform is built on the fact that he is a conservative with great morale,  who “wants to see that we remain great.” He expresses deep worry for the greenways and bikeway projects and has a deep desire to “restore and protect out history.”
  • Ian Baltutis  is the current mayor of Burlington, a business owner, and an Elon University graduate. During his term, he encouraged civic engagement and expressed a passion for promoting leadership in young people.

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Together We Will Set the Next Horizon for Elon’s Destiny” promises Connie Book, president-elect of Elon University

By Ana Gabriela García

This morning, Elon students, faculty, staff and extended community woke up with the news that the search for the next president-elect had officially ended.

Before being named president-elect of Elon University, Connie Book distinguished herself on campus by leading the creation of the Student Professional Development, the Global Community. She also served as a presidential faculty fellow for strategic planning, which focused on the development of the Elon Commitment strategic plan and the department chair and associate dean of Elon’s School of Communication. Prior to being associate dean, she taught as a faculty member.

Fred Young, Elon’s seventh president, said before the event that he’s really excited about the new president.

“She brings exactly what we need at this school. I am excited to admire her work as I did president Lambert’s.” Young said, “It’s been a joy to watch him and admire his skill. A joy to see Elon progress and make a reality of dreams that were items on a wish list when I was here. I hope this is only the beginning.”

 “I am excited to admire her work as I did president Lambert’s. It’s been a joy to watch him and admire his skill. A joy to see Elon progress and make a reality of dreams that were items on a wish list when I was here. ”

– Fred Young

Connie broke the mold as being the first female Provost in the Citadel’s 175-year history, and as Elon’s first female president. The announcement of Connie’s induction was made this morning at 8 a.m. Despite the last minute announcement, the event had a large turn-out as senior staff and leaders in the Elon community, both former and current came early to see her speak.

During her time at The Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina, she served as the Provost and Dean of the College, the school’s second-ranking official and was a tenured professor in the department of English.

Connie’s selection was unanimous, on both the part of the search committee and on part of the Board of Directors. Laurie Lambert, the wife of Leo Lambert, Elon’s current president, said that she’s really excited for the Elon community. “I think Connie is a great choice.”

“I think Connie is a great choice,” Lambert said.

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From left to right, current president Leo Lambert, president-elect Connie Book and former president Fred Young.

Vanessa Bravo, assistant professor of communications, was especially excited to see that Connie had been selected because she will be Elon’s first female president.

According to a 2011 report by the American Council on Education, only a quarter of college presidents are female.

“She has the academic background, is a great human being and knows Elon,” Bravo said. “I’m delighted that she’s going to be the new president.”

The Chair of Elon University’s Board of Trustees, Kerrii Anderson, said she believed the search committe met the expectations of the Elon community. These were  to look for an academic leader who is student-centered, has integrity, holds a global vision, will bring new resources and create a truly global community at Elon.

On her return to Elon, Book said,

“This is an exciting time for me and my family. I had a strong sense of coming home.”

Her sixteen years living and working at Elon are fondly remembered by her and her family. That was evident as she recounted anecdotes on how Elon had helped mold her children’s childhood and their interests. For instance, her daughter, Bella Book, attended her first lecture on feminism when she was 13 years old, something which she said  influenced her daughter’s studies and future life.

Near the end of her speech, Book addressed the entire Elon community, promising that,

“Together we will set the next horizon for Elon’s destiny.”

Leo Lambert said he has faith in Book, and presented her with a carved acorn.

“I give you this with our confidence that you have everything within you to be Elon’s might oak.”

“I give you this with our confidence that you have everything within you to be Elon’s might oak.”