For Immediate Release: June 8, 2022
Contact: Michael Earls at [email protected]
TheDream.US Celebrates Virtual Commencement of More than 500 New DREAMer College Graduates
Watch the recorded version of TheDream.US virtual commencement here
Washington, DC – At a virtual commencement held Thursday May 26, TheDream.US proudly celebrated the graduation of more than 500 TheDream.US Scholars this academic year from its more than 70 Partner Colleges in 19 states and Washington, DC. Featuring a commencement theme of “We Go Forward, Together,” the celebration for Scholars and their families means that there are now more than 2,500 TheDream.US alumni who are working to move our country forward.
Ahead of the upcoming 10-year anniversary of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program on June 15, the commencement celebration, along with the individual stories of the graduates and other TheDream.US Scholars, offers a reminder of why expanding opportunities for undocumented immigrants is good for all of us.
Among the commencement event highlights:
Melanie Buitron, Program Manager at TheDream.US and a former TheDream.US scholar, served as the Master of Ceremonies for the event. Reflecting on the commencement theme, she noted: “Our theme reflects how as a collective we’ve encountered many obstacles and hardships, but together we’ve been able to move forward.”
Don Graham, Chair of Graham Holdings Company and co-founder of The Dream.US, opened the commencement by acknowledging the momentous accomplishments made by the graduates. “For each of you, graduation represents an individual triumph over the countless obstacles large and small, that stand in the way of higher education for undocumented students. What you (TheDream.US Alumni) have accomplished is nothing short of amazing… but nothing compared to what you will do in the future.”
Jose Antonio Vargas, Pulitzer prize winning journalist, best-selling author, and immigration activist, was the guest speaker for the evening. Jose shared his experience about not being able to apply to college because of his undocumented status. At the time there was no language for the situation, having to refer to himself as an “alien.” It was because of a supportive community at his school and a scholarship like the ones provided by TheDream.US that he was able to get a degree. He described how different the times are: “Now we have more allies all over the country and of all backgrounds… You are a part of a community that will help you open windows when doors are shut.” He finished his speech with a call to action: “I urge you all to be a witness in each other’s lives and continue to be a part of this really special and essential community.”
The 2022 Graduate Scholar Speaker was Cezanne Hayden-Dyer, a 2022 graduate of Miami Dade College: “This June it will be 20 years since I graduated high school. If someone had told me it would take 20 years to complete my journey, I would’ve never believed them. But at a time before DACA, it seemed nearly impossible.” Deciding to enter college was no easy decision for her, especially when the future seemed so uncertain. “We entered college during a time when the previous administration was set on taking away our livelihood, including rescinding DACA. Even with uncertainty and adversity we still push forward. Then the COVID19 pandemic came. Many people lost their jobs and loved ones. Even if it felt like we were faltering, we found that motivation to push forward.” She ended her speech with reassuring words: “No matter how we got here or how far you feel you need to go, you should not diminish this moment as a small feature. One thing I know for sure is that despite all these obstacles we face, we are resilient, and we can navigate ourselves into the future.”
Gloria Rinconi, the 2022 Alumni Speaker and a graduate of University of North Texas – Dallas, shared personal reflections: “Gaby Pacheco told me in a room full of [TheDream.US] Scholars, ‘The fact that you as an undocumented person are in this room pursuing higher education in an institution that was not built for us, that was not designed for us to succeed is beyond what anyone has imagined. This makes you resilient.” Gloria finished her speech reaffirming the graduates: “No tyranny, virus, or hate can take away your accomplishment.”
Candy Marshall, President of TheDream.Us, closed out the commencement addressing the parents and families of Scholars: “You crossed entire countries, you crossed oceans. You left behind families, you left behind the foods that you love, you left behind everything that was familiar to you, to come to this day. You did this for your children, You did this for your graduate, so they can have a meaningful and full career. Thank you for your courage and for everything you gave up to say “my child is a college graduate.”
- Watch a recorded version of the 2022 TheDream.US virtual commencement HERE
TheDream.US, the nation’s largest college and career success program for immigrant youth, has provided more than 8,750 college scholarships to undocumented students attending 70+ partner colleges in 19 states and Washington, DC. We believe everyone should have the opportunity to pursue a college education.