By Karelys Beltran
I got wind that Ms. Carrión is on a mission to open a resource center for undocu youth here in the valley. I had some questions and she was kind enough to answer them all in great detail.
I hope that once you learn more about this you will choose to support her as well and make this dream a reality.
Our valley will greatly benefit from this project in many ways that will ripple in our community for years to come.
1. What is this dream of opening up the center about?
I have been an undocumented youth, undocumented young adult and undocumented professional for a long time. I have gone through different stages as an undocumented individual. I went through the different stage of the DREAM Act (2001-2017). I have felt hope, discouraged, enraged, excitement, motivation, drive, sadness, happiness and all of these emotions all over again through periods. It's been a cycle. I want to create a brave space for undocumented youth to receive the resources, academic and mental support, gain life skills and provide professional development, and most importantly have a space to be themselves.
This program will be different from other educational programs in grade school in Washington State because there aren't specific programs and services that focus on undocumented students and undocumented youth in this age group. Undocumented students often have to come out of the shadows to their untrained school counselor in order to receive the services they need to succeed in grade school and in college. Undocumented students need a brave space with advisors and mentors that can relate to them, that look like them and feel inspired by them. Having undocumented leaders, mentors and advisors will positively influence the way they succeed throughout grade school, how they go prepared into college, and/or how they go to work.
My hope is that in the near future there will be a Monarch Center in every State and areas where it’s needed. I’ve started a movement before in Washington when I was a college student at the University of Washington. I co-founded the first undocumented support group on my campus. We named it the Purple Group to remain private and protect our identity as an undocumented support group and protect ourselves. Our group spread by word of mouth and we met weekly becoming an emotional, academic support to each other. A few years later a few students kept the group going and today it is a recognized registered student club. Other universities began to adopt the same color group idea over the years. Some examples: Western Washington University Blue Group, Washington State University Crimson Group, Eastern Washington University Red Group, Seattle University Scarlet Group, and there are other color groups in progress. There are other universities and community colleges following this idea.
In Yakima I already run a community undocumented support group called Corazón open to all age groups, inspired by the same idea as the color groups. I co-founded it with my I AM Empowerment LLC business partner. I started a movement in college and now I want to continue that movement by expanding it to undocumented students in grade school, undocumented out-of-school youth and undocumented LGBTQ+ youth. I have no doubt it will become a reality. It is just a matter of time, money and support.
2. What do you think is the long term effect of bringing this to the valley?
The Monarch Center will impact The Yakima Valley and its neighboring cities in a positive and powerful way. It will help undocumented youth feel supported and be reminded that they matter, that they are more than their legal status and the economic value they bring to this country; it will remind them that being human is enough to be here.
Participants of the Monarch Center will have continued support that focuses just on them. Being undocumented is just one factor, there are many intersectionalities involved. The Monarch Center will serve undocumented youth ages 13-25, undocumented middle school and high school students, undocumented out-of-school youth, undocumented homeless youth or youth in “transition” from home to home, undocumented LGBTQ+ youth, and undocumented youth from different social, economic, and ethnic backgrounds. The Monarch Center aims to work with school districts to provide them with the proper tools to help undocumented students, and to work with other community youth centers to support each other. It will empower undocumented youth with the tools to become successful in grade school, higher education and in their careers. They will learn to cope with the instability of immigration bills, policies and laws that affect them and their families. To go beyond academic issues but also address their mental health to be able to go out in society and have the tools, positive coping mechanisms and strength to face it all.
3. If you reach your gofundme goal, what's the very next step?
The $50,000 GoFundMe goal is just the beginning. To run an important and highly needed undocumented youth center it will take more than this amount. I will be investing from my own organization, I AM Empowerment LLC, to keep the Monarch Center alive and continue to look for sponsors and investors.
Once the first goal is reached I will put down a down payment on a building that I will be working hard to buy over the years. I will begin hiring staff to help me run the Monarch Center. In the meantime I will be looking for the best and appropriate team to work with undocumented youth, I will be looking for community partnerships, and continue to do what I’ve been doing for many years; empowering undocumented youth and my undocumented community in the Yakima Valley.
Step 1: Build Team
Step 2: Identify/Estimate How Many Undocumented Youth Reside in Yakima
Step 3: Promote the center
Step 4: Build Partnerships
Step 5: Recruit minimum 100 youth
Step 6: Provide Student Intake Forms
Step 7: Measure Student Academic Progress: Survey levels of knowledge that each partnership has to identify what type of training needs to be provided
Step 8: Ensure undocumented youth information is safe and work on emergency plan to protect from ICE entering building.
Measurable Objectives and Outcomes
Recruit minimum 100 undocumented youth throughout the year
Provide 1 event per quarter at the Monarch Center
Provide quarterly trainings for partnerships (ally trainings, diversity, equity and inclusion trainings).
Provide minimum 1 mental health counseling session for each undocumented youth
4. How is the center going to be funded going forward?
I AM Empowerment LLC and future investors. The Monarch Center will be free for youth. Since I will have to pay my staff I am counting on partnering with the school districts and other organizations when providing ally trainings and other work for them. Undocumented immigrants have been doing free labor for centuries or working very hard for little pay. The Monarch Center is more than a youth center, it is a movement where undocumented professionals take a stand to this and get paid for their work and expertise. As an undocumented entrepreneur I am already getting paid to provide ally workshops and diversity and equity trainings in several higher education institutions and educational organizations.
5. Can you add something regarding mental health and how it relates to undocumented youth?
It is crucial for undocumented youth to receive academic, financial, emotional and mental health help in order to learn balance and positive coping mechanisms to the traumas of being undocumented that come with being on "fight-or-flight" mode, survival mode, encounter constant barriers due to their legal status, hatred and racism, and struggles in their personal lives.
There is a lack of support for mental and emotional help. Academic and financial support must work in conjunction with mental and emotional support as youth are tackling many issues at once.
There is a lack of:
Knowledge in mental health resources
Educational training on mental health issues
Educational training on diversity, equity and social justice
Providing mental health therapist(s)
Trauma, Triggers, Fears, Pressures & Lack of Nutrition
Family Separation Anxiety
Undocumented youth are dealing with:
Trauma and fear and constant deportation threats
Fear and lack of control of not being academically successful or fulfill their dreams and career goals
Sense of responsibility to help families financially
Physical, emotional and mental exhaustion. Lack of sleep.
Type of discipline given that can lead to worsen the problem not help it
Not nourishing bodies in a healthy way due to lack of money or using drugs and alcohol as outlets
Incarceration: behavioral issues due to lacking emotional intelligence, lack knowledge in positive coping mechanisms, and/or dealing with a mental illness
Monarch Center will be undocumented led with the opportunity to partner with allies
Tutoring & Mentoring Services
Working with mental health professional(s) at the Monarch Center
Educational Workshops: teach educators about academic and financial resources
Life Skills Workshops: learning opportunities for youth in professional development, housing information, job coaching, filing taxes, financial literacy, nutrition and mental health, emotional intelligence, the art of asking, and learning where to find resources.
College Visits: Exposure to in-state and out-of-state higher education institutions and educational trips (experiences their families cannot afford)
Ally trainings: Diversity and equity trainings
Fill gap and create a bridge between school staff and monolingual parents to increase and open the doors for involvement, communication, and acceptance among each other.
Defend Your Rights workshops and trainings for school districts and youth
Services for undocuqueer youth
Youth Retreats & Conferences: led by undocumented youth with the purpose of networking with professionals and other undocumented youth, and collaborate our work with others
Civic Engagement: opportunities to be transformative leaders, learn to be a public speaker and use their voice, to write, and meet in person legislators, activism and organizing trainings, and learn to take direct action
I am so inspired by Rocío´s vision and passion.
Find her through her company I AM Empowerment and keep your finger on the pulse of all the exciting developments happening in the valley.