Standing by support of students’ dreams

One teaches in an Atlanta-area public school with Teach for America and is an award-winning artist. Another is studying public health, focusing on strategies to help people prevent and manage chronic diseases like diabetes. A third is a math whiz who wants to pursue a Ph.D. in mathematics. And a fourth has interned with the energy company Exelon and is exploring a career in organizational management.

Who are they? These Agnes Scott students and alums were brought to this country as children. They were undocumented. But at the very first opportunity provided to them, they registered with the federal government through the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program. They are bright, hard-working young women who have played by the rules, graduated from high school, and passed a criminal background check. They want to become U.S. citizens and pursue the American Dream.

Agnes Scott’s DACA students do not receive a penny of state or federal aid – no HOPE scholarships, TEG grants, Pell grants, or federal student loans. They are not taking places away from American-born students on our campus. They are able to go to college because they receive private scholarship support which we raise from donors and foundations, and scrape together the rest of their college costs through the hard work of their families in housekeeping, construction, agriculture, hospitality, manufacturing and the U.S. military.

Why does Agnes Scott support DACA students? Because as a private, church-related institution, we believe children should not be punished for actions by adults over whom they had no control. We believe it is our right as well as our sacred obligation to invest in young people who have the skills and drive to make a difference in the world. And we are committed, in the words of our mission statement, to educating students to “think deeply, live honorably, and engage the intellectual and social challenges of their times.”

Today, the DACA program is at risk of being terminated, putting those with DACA status at risk of deportation. This would be a tragic loss to the America my parents taught me to love.

My father was a political prisoner in Hungary under both the Nazis and the Communists. He and my mother, along with my two sisters, came to America 60 years ago as refugees. They fled an evil communist regime in which the secret police arrested those who criticized the government and punished and targeted their wives, mothers and children.

My parents loved and celebrated America for its commitment to freedom, democracy, and fairness. In America, you could speak up and disagree with the government. In America, you could freely practice your faith. In America, you could build a business to provide jobs and contribute to your community. You could be welcomed and given an opportunity to build a new life as an American.

I believe passionately in these great American values. And I believe we live up to these values when we give bright, hard-working young people who have done nothing wrong the opportunity to learn, earn, and give back to this country.