Wednesday, April 15, 2015

DREAMing for M(ore)AGIS

Throughout the last school year, student leaders in the Student Government of Loyola Chicago (SGLC) and the Latin American Students’ Organization (LASO) have worked tirelessly to bring recognition to and find a solution for an issue affecting many college students across the country. The issue is one stemming from a lack of comprehensive immigration reform and, specifically, a lack of support for the Dream Act. In the United States today, undocumented high school students face a harsh reality. While they may thrive and succeed in the public school system through high school, they are not eligible to receive federal aid or loans to attend college upon graduation. With the soaring costs of higher education, it becomes extraordinarily difficult for an undocumented student to earn a college degree, and thus their future is, in so many ways, stunted. While this is often taken up as a polemical issue, Loyola students chose to see the challenges and disincentive faced by their peers, rather than the politicking that limits any meaningful provision or change in the current system. So often, these undocumented high school grads, often referred to as DREAMers, grew up in the states. From a young age, they went to school, conversed in English, and grew up within U.S. culture. For all intents and purposes, the United States is their home. Leaders of SGLC and LASO sought to circumvent the political issues surrounding these DREAMers' status of citizenship, and fought to allow them access to the same education that so many of us can, with the help of federal financial aid, afford. Recognizing and capitalizing on their platform as student organizations, they harnessed the energy of the lived reality and experience of undocumented students at Loyola and elsewhere, and worked with the resources available to them to bring about change. Urging the Loyola Administration to offer financial assistance to undocumented students, SGLC and LASO created energy around the Magis scholarship. The official language of the Magis Scholarship is as follows:
“The Student Government of Loyola Chicago (SGLC) and Latin American Student Organization (LASO) intend to raise funds to create a scholarship for Loyola students who demonstrate financial need, display academic merit through a 3.0 GPA or higher on a 4.0 scale, and exhibit leadership potential and a strong desire to pay it forward. The scholarship will be awarded to one or more students each year, and will be available to full-time, undergraduate students seeking their first degree who are ineligible for federal financial aid (FAFSA).
In solidarity with the undergraduate student body, USGA and LASO feel the creation of this scholarship is a vital manifestation of Jesuit values at Loyola University Chicago. While the university does much to emotionally and socially support students who do not qualify for federal financial aid once they arrive on campus, it is overshadowed by the fact that access to higher education at Loyola for these individuals is almost impossible. The Latin word “Magis,” meaning “the more,” has long been a motto of the Jesuit community reminding its members to always strive to do “the more” for others. This is why USGA and LASO are partnering together to create The Magis Scholars Fund: to empower tomorrow’s leaders from underrepresented and diverse communities and to inspire other Jesuit institutions, by doing “the more” for this unique population, to provide equal access and opportunity for all. If sufficient funds are raised, an endowed scholarship may be created to award more scholarships in the future.”
            In so many ways, this effort has been a creative force in meeting a real and immediate need of students right in our own community. SGLC and LASO harnessed the student voice through a referendum vote on the potential for funding fromstudent fees. They were able to directly communicate student desires to administrators because of the platform already in place for SGLC to operate from.  They have subverted any potential economic rebuttal by offering, with the support of the student body, to fund the education of the DREAMers. In addition, this movement was the perfect collaborative effort between SGLC, a body with the platform to consult the general population and make effective change, and LASO, an organization that provides a space for many of these DREAMers to find consolation and support within the context of community. Finally, the unwavering energy and hope that has allowed these student leaders to push forward through the challenges, both fiscal and bureaucratic, can be traced back to an intrinsic desire to be in communion with their undocumented neighbors. Their insights into the realities of an undocumented student put them in a unique position to discover a meaningful resolution to this growing dilemma.[i] On the whole, it has been a privilege to be a witness to this movement, solely energized by students and solely for the benefit of students. I would hope that the board and university administrators can summon they same courage and creativity to propel the Magis Scholars Fund into a reality. Students are already ready and willing to invest in this mission-realizing proposition. One would hope that Loyola, Chicago’s Jesuit, Catholic University, would be, too.

[i] While I’m aware that I just dropped a load of buzzwords on you, I believe that each is truly relevant and applicable to the efforts of SGLC and LASO to turn the Magis Scholars Fund into a reality for the DREAMers of LUC. What is inspiring to see, as their peer, is the depth of insight and compassion these students had that allowed them to respond so meaningfully to this issue. Students in both of these organizations already had a deep conceptual understanding of this issue and all of its components. Using this understanding and joint perspective, they were able to restructure the problem and discover new ways to resolve it using resources and mediums available to them in the immediate (Steenburgh, Fleck, Beeman, Kounois). This insight allowed them to respond creatively to the need (indeed the question – and the right one) that they saw arising in their peer community. These students make me proud to call myself a Rambler.

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