Don’t worry – we can help!
The pursuit of higher education is often seen as a pathway to achieving one’s dreams and aspirations. It’s not the only one, but for many in the Willmar area, it’s attainable with Ridgewater College here. However, for students with undocumented parents, the journey to college can be filled with financial and legal challenges. It can be so scary that it’s easier to avoid trying.
Recently I watched a dedicated Career Navigator, Delina, go above and beyond to assist a determined student in filling out financial aid forms for college, troubleshooting problems as they came up, and asking questions where others may have given up. It illuminated the importance of support and advocacy in breaking down the barriers to higher education.
The student provided all the necessary information, and together the worker and student completed nearly all the FAFSA applications. However, they faced a significant obstacle: the student’s parents were undocumented immigrants. Now what?
Delina knew that if a student is a citizen or eligible non-citizen, they are allowed to apply for financial aid through the FAFSA application. She requested the student bring their prior year’s tax information for both themself and their parents. Since the parents were undocumented, they did not file taxes. However, they had a W2 to show proof of income. Undocumented individuals do not possess a social security number. Therefore, when it was time to add parent information to the FAFSA application, the social security number was zeros across the board (per the guidance of the financial aid department).
At CMJTS, our Career Navigators understand that applying for financial aid can be daunting for all students, particularly for someone in this student’s situation. She patiently walked them through each step of the application process, offering guidance on what to do next. She provided reassurance that their family was safe and that this would not cause any harm.
Delina’s support will extend beyond financial aid applications. Youth Career Navigators help our customers explore college options, connect with mentors in their chosen fields, and get valuable work experience when it applies. Delina’s unwavering belief in the potential of youth serves as a source of motivation and encouragement throughout the process.
The team at CMJTS understands that each persons’ own lived experience is so valuable, and we work hard to keep this front of mind each day we come to work. We also ensure we look at things through different lenses. The lives of our students facing unique challenges may be drastically different from ours, and they may not verbalize their anxieties. It reminds us that with the right guidance, advocacy, and resources, even the most formidable barriers can be overcome. As we celebrate this triumph with Delina and this student, we are reminded that every youth, regardless of their background, deserves the opportunity to pursue their dreams through higher education.