OPINION: NMDT’s Vision for Education Justice at CNM

By: Selene Vences / NM Dream Team

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – What does it mean for the New Mexico Dream Team to finally be a chartered organization at Central New Mexico Community College?

It means that we finally have the visibility to bring awareness to the issues that affect many of CNM’s students. Before, we were limited with what we could do.

We weren’t  able to hang flyers, conduct tableling events, or be part of any welcome back events on campus. Undocumented students at CNM do not exist in silos, they attend classes, and study amongst their documented peers. For this reason, it is important to have representation, protection, and visibility on campus.

It is clear to us every student has the undeniable right to freedom and opportunity in the pursuit of an education.

No student should fear deportation, discrimination, being singled out, persecuted or even the possibility of losing their lives simply because of their identity or an intersectionality. In becoming a chartered organization at CNM, we are taking the first step into turning CNM into a “Dream Campus”. In doing so, we are fostering freedom, opportunity, and inclusion for people of color, LGBTQ folks and immigrant students on campus.

I attended CNM for six years and never missed a semester. Throughout my educational journey while at CNM I felt alone, and at times afraid of my status being outed in the classroom. I would talk to anyone who was willing to listen to me and I would ask them what resources were available for undocumented students.

Time and time again, I was either misinformed or told that they didn’t have any information.

As a result, I began thinking that I would never finish my bachelor’s degree because I could never afford out of state tuition at UNM. However, I was persistent and after six years at CNM I decided to transfer to the University of New Mexico.

It was through the help of my academic advisor that I was FINALLY able to transfer. She told me that undocumented students could receive instate tuition through SB582. This completely changed my educational journey and as a result I graduated in May 2018.

However, I am not the only student this has happened to.

Many CNM students, more so undocumented students, are not provided with the support and compassion they deserve and so desperately need. Students either end up dropping out or they end up pushing through it and carrying a heavy burden, taking a huge toll on their mental health.

“Organizing has made it easier for me to communicate around school. I also know of more scholarships and resources that have benefited me. I also have the knowledge I need to feel safe with in the school no matter my status,” stated the new CNM chapter’s lead, Wendy de la Cruz.

This is why it is important for us to foster the professional, academic and personal development of all students regardless of their immigration status.

To Wendy, who worked diligently to get the chapter started and  chartered at CNM, this victory means “more opportunity for our undocumented community.”

“Being an organization at CNM means we have more privilege to organize with in the campus. With organizing we will be able to keep everyone informed on their rights when in comes to education. With that we will also be able to give everyone the resources they might need to be successful in school,” De La Cruz said.  

For this, and many other reasons, I invite you to join our first chapter meeting as an official student organization at CNM tonight at 7:30 p.m. in Smith Brasher (SB) 102. We hope to see you there!

You can join the event page on Facebook here.

Selene Vences is the Education Justice Coordinator for the NM Dream Team.