I love teaching students to write. To be more exact, I’m passionate about helping students from all backgrounds develop writing skills so they can experience the power of words and learn the joy of finding their voice.
While I hope my students learn from me, they teach me as well. Through their writing I have discovered what they love: family, food, friends, music, looking at stars from a rooftop. And what they dream about: going to college, teaching children, buying a first car, owning their own home—to name a few.
I have also learned what some of my students, those who are in this country without valid immigration status, fear—being taken from their family, from the community they have called home since childhood. Some students write of desperate situations in their country of origin and of equally desperate efforts to reunite their family in the states after a parent came here to find work and send support back home.
These students without valid immigration status, like their native born and documented immigrant peers, work hard in school, all the while adjusting to a new language and culture. They participate in sports and clubs and volunteer in our community. Teachers recognize their potential and talk to them about college. They begin to dream of opportunities they never thought possible—opportunities their parents never had, but sacrificed to give them. Then the reality of their situation—a student without documents—beings to settle in. The spark flickers. The dream begins to die.
I know what can happen when young people lose hope. That is one of the many reasons I support the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act, better known as the DREAM Act. As an educator whose goal for thirty years has simply been to love both my students and the subjects I taught, I am an unlikely and uncomfortable activist. However, this pending federal legislation, which has attracted bi-partisan support, offers my students a chance to hope again.
As the DREAM Act is currently drafted, students must meet each of the following requirements to qualify:
• They must have entered the U. S. before the age of 16,
• They must have earned a U. S. high school diploma or GED,
• They must have lived in the U. S. for at least 5 years before the date the legislation is enacted, and
• They must display good moral character.
Students who meet these requirements would be issued temporary residency for a period of six years in which they must either earn a two-year degree or serve for two years in the U.S. Military in order to earn permanent residency.
I support the DREAM Act, and I am sharing information with my neighbors to encourage them to support this legislation. I personally know young people in our community who would benefit from the DREAM Act. They are my students. I know their character. I know their dreams. Their families are my neighbors. They are my friends. Without the passage of the DREAM Act, we will lose the contribution these students can make to our wonderful community of Harrisonburg, Virginia, a community, which has already invested so much in them and the place these students call home. My students have helped me understand that there are times I must leave the comfort of my classroom and work for justice to meet compassion.
-- Sandy Mercer lives in Harrisonburg
- ▼ March (4)