WASHINGTON, D.C. – First lady Michelle Obama flew about 10 dozen college-bound students – many of them undocumented immigrants – and their chaperones to the White House last Thursday for a special celebration.
The next day, the spotlight turned to undocumented immigrant teachers who earned work status through President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a program that allows some children of parents who entered the country illegally to stay here indefinitely.
A total of nine illegal immigrant teachers from across the country were honored as “Champions of Change” through the president’s “DACAmented Teachers” program. The teachers were recognized for their exemplary work inspiring minority students and engaging their families, as well as their own accomplishments.
Dallas teacher Luis Juarez-Trevino, for example, created a YouTube channel to communicate to parents of his Spanish speaking students. Speaking in their native language, the 23-year-old teacher at William Lipscomb Elementary School relays updates, volunteer opportunities and upcoming events through the weekly “Lipscomb Noticias,” The Dallas Morning News reports.
“Parent engagement has increased, which leads to student success in the classroom,” Juarez-Trevino told the news site. “They see me as someone they can relate to because we share similar experiences.”
The teacher told WFAA 8 parents have come to rely on his YouTube broadcasts.
“It got to the point that they ask me, ‘Mr. Juarez, why haven’t you sent the video?’ They hold me accountable for it,” Juarez said. “They expect the video every week, because they want to know how their kid is doing.”
Juarez-Trevino attended Dallas schools before earning a degree at the University of Austin Texas, though he couldn’t find a job because illegal status until Obama’s DACA program launched in 2012.
He landed a job in the Dallas Independent School District a couple years later.
Other DACA teachers, like Maria Dominguez, share similar stories to inspire their students to succeed.
“It’s recognition of all the work that we’ve done,” she told MSNBC. “I’m not talking about just me, but the people that work around me to make this happen.”
“I tell my story because when (students) talk to me, I know they feel afraid of the status of their parents, which is normal, but I tell them: I came from the same community you did. This is my story and if I did it, you can do it.”
An Austin Independent School District press release states that Dominguez was selected as a White House “Champion of Change” “for her efforts helping undocumented Austin ISD students apply for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals status.”
Breitbart.com summarized the other seven “DACAmented Teachers”:
Kasfia Islam is a pre-K teacher in Spring Branch ISD, northwest of Houston. She is a UT graduate. Rosario Quiroz Villarreal is a fourth grade teacher in the Rio Grande Valley’s McAllen ISD. She a 2014 Teach for America Texas Corps member. Her passion is working for social justice and with children from underrepresented communities.
California DACA honorees are Philippino Jaime Ballesteros who teaches in a Watts neighborhood public charter school in downtown Los Angeles; and middle school math and Spanish teacher Yara Hidalgo from San Jose’s Sacred Heart Nativity Catholic School. She is affiliated with the Engaged Latina Leadership Activist Program.
Elementary school teacher Dinorah Flores Perez identifies as Mexican and Salvadorian, although she was raised in Seattle and attended the University of Washington. She is a strong advocate for social justice who is working on her master’s degree at the University of New Mexico.
The July 24 event featured addresses from Education Secretary Arne Duncan, White House Domestic Policy Council director Cecilia Munoz, and actress Diane Guerrero, whose parents and brother were deported when she was 14 years old, Breitbart and the Los Angeles Times report.