Sunday, November 27, 2016

Bending to Beauty: An Interview with Dian Zirilli-Mares

Kirpal Gordon: Congratulations on the publication of your first book of poetry, Bending to Beauty. As your neighbor on Burton Street, I remember how back in your teenage years you were already writing verse, taking photographs and winning awards at Bishop Reilly’s Robert Frost contest. So, after retiring from a life as a reading teacher and elementary school administrator, what inspired you to write a book of free verse at this point of your life?

Dian Zirilli-Mares: I began writing this book at the prompting of my sons, Justin and Jared. These last few years, as we watch their ninety-four year old grandfather become forgetful, we began to realize how precious and ephemeral the past truly is. We regret questions that have to go unasked now; my dad no longer remembers the answers. It became another cautionary tale. The boys knew I have been writing poetry since I was a young girl and urged me to create a book that would preserve a piece of my life for them to cherish when I---or my memory---was gone.

Kirpal Gordon: Justin and Jared are both in the arts, yes? Your mom was something of a poet, too, no? I remember both your mom and dad as open-minded people who in the early Seventies had learned how to meditate. Your husband Ray is quite the rock ‘n’ roll musician. You have been around literature and music your whole life. You mention all five of these people in your dedication.

Dian Zirilli-Mares: My dedication is to my beloved five. My son Justin is a published author, aspiring television writer, and entertainment journalist. Jared is a New York-based actor and singer who has worked on Broadway as well as in television and film. My mom was a voracious reader who dabbled in writing herself, long before it was fashionable to self-publish. She and my father were always ahead of their time. At my father's urging, they were among the first trained in Transcendental Meditation by its founder, the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. True to his garage band roots, Ray began singing and playing again in a rock 'n' roll band six years ago. But from the moment we began dating fifteen years ago, I was serenaded often, much to the delight of my inner teenager. Literature and music have been my constant backdrop. I can't imagine my life without them.

Kirpal Gordon: Why did you title the book Bending to Beauty?

Dian Zirilli-Mares: A few years ago, I became addicted to silver fabrication. The role of the  torch in the ultimate beauty of a piece fascinated me. In the jeweler's world, fire doesn't destroy. The flame is necessary for the smoothing, shaping, and building of silver jewelry. As I examined my life and wrote my poems, it became clear to me how perfect a metaphor the flaming torch would be. Life's "fiery strokes" may bring pain, but they also forge strength---and strength can bring the possibility of joy again. I have been blessed, no matter the pain or loss in my life, to always be able to "bend to beauty."

Kirpal Gordon: What was your writing process like for these thirty-eight poems?

Dian Zirilli-Mares: Athough I have written many poems over the last fifty years, they mostly burst out of me onto the page. There was no process involved at all. Whenever I felt something intensely, there was a good chance it would eventually find its voice in a poem. I knew that this approach to a book would never do if I wanted to finish it in my lifetime. On the other hand, the sheer act of sitting all day and "waiting for lightning to strike" was daunting. But it was all I could think of doing; I had never tried to discipline my creativity before. It wasn't going well and I felt like a college student writing a term paper. I was always finding "really important" phone calls to make, bills to pay, and laundry to do instead of courting my muse. Happily, I confessed my growing hatred of my writing prison, to my son, Justin, who is a published writer himself. He suggested I begin my early morning writing with a timer set for just 10 minutes. During that time I was to write about anything that came to mind. I should not even attempt to write a poem. When the timer went off, I would be free to move on to something less excruciating. Unless, of course, I was happily writing. Every week I was to add 10 minutes to my timer. Before  long I was up to a half an hour and I didn't want to stop writing. Many days I didn't. My daily musings often contained seeds that eventually grew into strong poems. Some of them surprised me. Although first drafts poured out of me quickly, it took many, many revisions and edits to chisel each poem to where it needed to be. But the greatest gift of these last two years is that when I had to change hats and proof formatted first runs and final files, I realized how much I missed writing poems. Professional writers tell me this is what happens. That maw of silence and lack of creativity eventually seduce you back to the torturous and glorious writer's chair.  And mine is calling as we speak.

Kirpal Gordon: In the book’s epigram, you quote Anne Lamott: All I have to offer as a writer is my version of life. Every single thing that has happened to me is mine…. If people wanted me to write more warmly about them, they should have behaved better. Is this a word to the wise or just good fun?

Dian Zirilli-Mares: A word to the wise.

Kirpal Gordon: Your book is broken down into four sections. The first, "Hallowed Places," is rich with memory.

Dian Zirilli-Mares: "Hallowed Places" holds memoir poems.  As I grow older, and lose those I love, these sharp childhood memories become dearer still. The poems in this section capture the past, and some of the people and the times that are precious to me. 

Kirpal Gordon: Marona mia, bella! These lines are also incantatory and become universal when they invoke the sights, smells, joys, mysteries, loves and uncertainties of a young girl: Halloween’s autumn alchemy in Beechurst; your dad playing Italian love songs on his tape recorder; Aunt Rose’s sweet tooth; laying under the balsam Christmas tree; watching wrestling on TV with your grandma on your first sleep-over; your mom praying in the living room. We share the innocence of childhood meeting the wonders and terrors of this world. Perhaps “Waiting for Steve,“ in all its rhythms of puberty and Godot-like comedy, reveals this quality best:

In the heat of summer dusk,

we sit on the curb in front of our house

waiting for the boys to come out.

Scraps of conversation billow up between us,

settle down again,

like brightly colored flags in a sudden August breeze.

Staring straight ahead, eyes never meeting, we tell secrets.

When I grow up I want to be a torch singer. Or a cloistered nun.

You whisper a dream to dance in a cage

in those white go-go boots from Thom McAnn’s.

Jump up to twirl on one ice blue thong.

Sit down beside me again.

We float a leaf and a Wrigley’s wrapper

down the car wash stream at our feet.

Wonder – how much longer till Steve comes,

ringing his bells into the fireflied night.

We hope the boys will come out then.

Pat our damp pixie bangs in place.

What a tribute to an ice cream man! What a tribute to teenhood!

Dian Zirilli-Mares:  I loved going back to the memories of Burton Street and my childhood. I craved the feeling of peace they brought me.  These memories remain an antidote to the darkness and fear I feel as I grow older and watch the world change.

Kirpal Gordon: "No Surprises," the book‘s second section, is an abrupt shift.

Dian Zirill-Mares: In "No Surprises" the poems highlight the everyday wisdom and matter-of-fact learnings of a life fully lived. From the stance of my later years, my poems illuminate what I now see as obvious truths about people, life, and living.

Kirpal Gordon: Not only has the eye of experience replaced the eye of innocence, but the tone of these poems is reflective, rather than evocative. From the last line of your last poem in “Hallowed Places---“Welcome her home,“ a rembrance of your deceased mom---comes “The Battlefield“‘s eight lines:

Day 29 of meditation

and I cannot stanch the rage.

Past betrayals and pains are fresh, bleeding again,

like wounds roughly stripped of their protective gauze.

I survey the littered terrain, learn there are no surprises.

What I do not honor,

what I tamp down and swallow,

does not die.

Dian Zirilli-Mares: The hard work of this later part of my life seems to be to speak my truth no matter the cost.  I've spent too many years framing and reframing the disloyalties of  people I trusted in order to carry on. My poem reflects what I have learned about how effective that is in the long run. It is a Pyrrhic victory.

Kirpal Gordon: Throughout this section, but especially in “The Choice,“ your Rumi-like reflections on motherhood are in such sharp contrast to daughterhood and maidenhood in “Hallowed Places.“ In "Fiery Strokes" you also have some exceptionally strong work. Again, the tone of these poems shift as well. These poems summon the courage hard won of a lifetime learner. Not only do they skillfully meditate on the art of aging, but they read like an Ars Poetica. Like you say: “Driven to gnaw at my life, I cut to the quick. / The tenderest meat is close to the bone.”

Dian Zirilli-Mares: "Fiery Strokes" contains poems of different kinds of loss and pain. But, again, the title poem "Bending to Beauty" reminds that suffering endured can bring strength and growth. Although the poems show no happily-ever-after, the reader can assume the story has not ended.

Kirpal Gordon: I quote in full your title poem:

Every loss I survive marks me.

Just as the torch takes solder and smooths it to an unbroken stream,

I am made stronger with each fiery stroke.

If you work silver to follow your will too long,

it resists and hardens, soon becoming unmovable,

no longer able to bend to beauty.

Only the brush of flame softens, makes it malleable again.

Yet silver holds the memory of all it has withstood.

In the heat and light of the burning torch, it forgives everything,

and everything becomes possible, once more.

Your metaphor of heat and alchemy reminds me so much of India’s yoga poets singing of tapas (inner heat) uncoiling the kundalini.

Dian Zirilli-Mares: I love that!  Although I have yet to read the yoga poets, I am a lover of Kundalini yoga and have been practicing it for the last three years. I was drawn to its emphasis on spirituality, the chanting of mantras, and the focus on the chakras and meditation as gateways to transformation. I have no doubt that Kundalini played a part in the evolution that led to my being ready to write  my truth in Bending to Beauty.

Kirpal Gordon: Once again, your next section, “Vigil Candles,“ shifts mood and tone dramatically from “Fiery Strokes.“

Dian Zirilli-Mares: Like the votives flickering before the statues in a church, "Vigil Candles" honors and marks special intentions, loved ones, and prayers answered and unanswered. The stories behind these poems continue to keep a silent vigil within me. I accept that they always will. It was my hope that others might read them, and recognize something in their lives as well.

Kirpal Gordon: The section opens with these eleven lines:

This morning, a text from a friend –

I was cooking and thought of your Mom,

her trick of bending asparagus to break at its most tender spot.

My mother died at sixty-five.

Some days, she appears unexpectedly.

These endless years without her,

I spit-shine her memory,

parrot her wisdom,

understand her boundaries.

I am a vigil candle.

It’s hard to say where she ends and I begin.

Those last two lines, like the last section itself, suggest an affirmation of lineage, continuity and love. Perhaps in love the boundary between self and other can finally be erased. Certainly that’s the celebration in this section, especially in the love poems to your husband Ray.

Dian Zirilli-Mares:  Ray and I are testaments to the power of the past and a love that never forgets. Our long and winding road back to one another from Burton Street where we grew up, fell in teenage love, then went our separate ways, took 35 years.  But, here we are, the lead singer in the rock“n“roll band and the poetess. Together at last.

Kirpal Gordon: How did it feel tapping into the past, the pain, the fear that comes out of these poems?

Dian Zirilli-Mares: Since I was very young, my writing has been the way I understand and navigate the feelings and choices in my life. I write in order to discover what the truth of a situation is. It is as though the act of struggling to find that perfect word in a poem or a story forces me to see clearly what I am feeling. My writing has worked me through suffering. It has helped me more fully celebrate my joys. Revisiting so many of my life's emotional moments while writing Bending to Beauty was no different. "A Tiny Circle of Light," an essay I wrote for my Master's thesis many years ago, speaks of this. "Always my strongest thoughts surface as poetry. It is as if the original experience is so painfully rich and deep, it grows roots and bears fruit. That fruit is my poetry."

Kirpal Gordon: What's next?

Dian Zirilli-Mares: I think I was unprepared for the extent of withdrawal I would experience after two years of working on Bending to Beauty. The daily discipline of facing my demons and angels while wrestling them to paper became cathartic. However, the more I continued to work at my craft, the more critical I became of each poem. I made a deal with myself, especially in regards to those more complicated, emotional poems---either I would be brutally honest or I would be silent. What is the point of poetry that plays games or hides in artifice? That took care of the heart of my poems. But the longer I worked on each one, the more I demanded of it technically. In the end, at least 25 poems were cut from the original collection because they were not ready to face the light of day.  Perhaps in another two years they will be.  Meanwhile, I am sure there is a great deal more agonizing ahead to be done over the exact word, the perfect metaphor. I am looking forward to picking up my pen again to revisit these first draft poems this winter. Spring.  Fall... 

Monday, November 21, 2016

The Silent and Absurd: Ingmar Bergman’s Persona by Erica Gaeta

If one thinks about it, the human condition is quite absurd. Everyone on the planet is different in every way imaginable. We all also tend to go through stages as we grow up to be independent, intellectual, free thinkers. First, we as children learn basic functions to speak and live in a society. Then we start to consider our place in the universe and the value of life. Physically, emotionally, spiritually, environmentally, we grow and discover. We all develop our own coping mechanisms throughout life, whether consciously or not, and that is where psychological and philosophical principles come in. Absurdism is a school of thought in which our existence is questioned and one is forced to wonder what is the point of everything. The film Persona beautifully and mysteriously captures the essence of these ideas while leaving viewers unsure of what they just watched. Director Ingmar Bergman uses brilliant visuals and symbolism in order to pose such deeply rooted questions. When faced with the doubt of living a meaningful life, the world becomes much darker and reality starts to fade into the abyss.

Much of Persona’s cinematography is strange and intriguing. Shots are simply black and white, but quite untraditional in that they are combined with a quiet slow moving style to create mystery. In the opening of the film, viewers see a collection of juxtaposed scenes with the edges of the filmstrip showing, representing this piece literally for what it is. As viewers, we are forced to look at the medium itself, raw and unmasked: a traditional film reel projection. The screen quickly fades to a young boy waking up and touching a large screen of a woman’s face (Bergman, 5 min. 34 sec.). One could interpret that the boy featured in the beginning ends up being Elisabet’s deformed son who never knew his mother for who she was and only recognized her face. He very much symbolizes naiveté, uncertainty, confusion, and even ignorance in life. Later, viewers are taken into the story of actress Elisabet Vogler, nurse Alma, and how they feed off of each other’s persona. As the film progresses, we discover that Alma is Elisabet’s assigned nurse due to a strange unexplained phenomenon. The actress froze on stage during a performance and never spoke again after that. It becomes evident that her reasoning for being mute is very much motivated by discontent with living an unhappy, fictitious life.

Elisabet’s eyes were somehow opened during her performance to the unfortunate reality of humanity; no one is truly oneself. Much of life is a show; it’s phony, but being silent allows one to sit back and observe without putting on a mask. In a press conference about the film at the time of shooting, director Bergman explained, “Persona is the Latin name for the face masks worn by actors in antiquity… the film will be about people's masks and attitudes” (Bergman). Some individuals reach a point in their lives where they stop and question why they conform to society, what they are even living for, and come to the realization that they will most likely never find out. French philosopher Albert Camus states: “Man stands face to face with the irrational. He feels within him his longing for happiness and for reason. The absurd is born of this confrontation between the human need and the unreasonable silence of the world” (Camus). In Camus’s profound essay on the subject, The Myth of Sisyphus, he discusses how when one comes to this realization there are ultimately three outcomes: suicide, a leap of faith, or acceptance. In Persona, we see that Elisabet has neither accepted nor denied this realization about an uncertain life purpose, but she is too scared and unwilling to take her own life. This leaves her with a leap of faith to do something drastic and daring; she stops talking. 

The silence of the unknown can be quite eerie. I’d say that many thought processes in the minds of everyday people are less than significant in subject matter. Most can’t help but get caught up in the superficial, mundane struggles of the human condition day to day and purposefully deter from thinking about what they don’t know or can’t control. It is scary and upsetting to some; however, daringly mindful people ponder what the point of their existence is, and ask themselves if they are proud of the life they are living. For example, consider this contemporary artist statement: “Some people are afraid of the unknown or infinity, but I embrace the idea that it is all around me and everyone else in the world. Getting people to also embrace this idea of endless possibility is usually the point I try to get across in [my work]…there is infinity in imagination, and a single thought could create an endless fractal in one’s own mind” (Donahue).

This is exactly what Elisabet Vogler was blind to in the film; the beauty of the unknown and the endless possibilities in life. As soon as Ms. Vogler realized she was not making any decisions herself, she had no control over her destiny.  She was living a life of endless uncertainty and unhappiness,  so she made the decision not to speak. She became an observer and chose to no longer participate in the game of life. What she clearly had failed to consider was that, “The freedom of man is… established in man's natural ability and opportunity to create his own meaning and purpose, to decide himself. [One] becomes the most precious unit of the existence, as he represents a set of unique ideals that can be characterized as an entire universe by itself” (Camus). Fear of the unknown is very real, but blocking oneself off from communication with others is not the answer. It is nearly impossible to associate with anyone who decides to respond to their discontent like this, which becomes clear through the development of nurse Alma’s character. Throughout the film she opens up increasingly to Elisabet at the shore house to pass the time and fill the silence. Eventually, Alma grows frustrated, small incidents occur, and a roll reversal emerges as Alma loses her sanity and control of her emotions.

So many people trap themselves in a box of close mindedness and ignorance. It is scary to consider reality and the unknown, but accepting it is much better than closing our minds to it. In Persona Elisabet was so wrapped up in fame and superficial decisions motivated by others that her personality and purpose got lost in playing roles. Although this is one of an infinite amount of interpretations for the film because of its ambiguity, it could be quite plausible from a philosophical and psychological perspective. No matter how one views this film, the visual artistic direction beautifully reflects a tragic story of someone who has lost her persona.

Author Erica Gaeta

Works Cited

"Absurdism." - New World Encyclopedia. MediaWiki, n.d. Web. 9 May 2016. <>.

Bergman, Ingmar. "Persona." Hulu. 1966 Svensk Filmindustri, 1 Jan. 1966. Web. 4 May 2016. <>.

Bergman, Stiftelsen Ingmar. "Persona." Ingmar Bergman. Stiftelsen Ingmar Bergman, 8 Oct. 1966. Web. 5 May 2016. <>.

Crowther, Bosley. "Persona." The New York Times. 2016 The New York Times Company, 7 Mar. 1967. Web. 9 May 2016. <>.

Ebert, Roger. "Persona Movie Review & Film Summary (1967) | Roger Ebert." All Content. Ebert Digital LLC, 7 Jan. 2001. Web. 9 May 2016. <>.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Where's the Comma: Learning How to Use the Writing Center by Jacob Manzoor


As I walked through the student center and turned left at Hofstra Hall, I was feeling anxious and nervous. I passed the foliage of the trees as I approached Mason Hall. I had a Writing Center appointment and was unsure of what to expect. I stepped over the threshold of Room 102 and automatically felt a warm and welcoming vibe. I attribute much of this to the relaxed nature of the tutors and the lack of walls separating the consulting spaces. I was
cordially greeted by David O. who stood tall in his gray sweater sporting a wide smile, which instantaneously made me rest at ease. Originally, I did not come here of my own free will; Professor Gordon said that I needed to go to the Writing Center at least once before handing in my paper. So I wrote my outline and the first few drafts with the help of my peers. After I believed my paper was complete, I decided that this was when I was going to have my work reviewed. Although I was not looking forward to having my assignment looked over by a stranger, my mindset changed completely by the end of my time there.

First I had to schedule an appointment. You could do so by walking into the WC, calling or just going to their website. I decided to introduce myself online; it was quick and easy to create an account and to select a time to meet. All I needed was my name and my 700 number to set up a password. Then I chose the date and whether I wanted to convene in person or online. I decided to do a face-to-face session.

I thought that my paper was adequate---maybe it had a few grammatical mistakes---but that’s about it. When I went there, I was expecting it to be a cold, top-down sort of meeting where I would be told what I did wrong, making me feel belittled. However, this was not the case at all. David and I proceeded to review my work. Instead of generating what seemed like a teacher-student relationship, it felt much more like a friendship. He asked me to read my paper aloud, and I was surprised to hear so many of my mistakes. Next, he explained to me what problems he had come across in my writing. Yes, I had an issue with putting commas in the right places.

Instead of revealing to me where it goes, then quickly moving on to the next pitfall, he explained why the punctuation went in that particular spot, and he helped me to identify my problem so as to not repeat it. Eventually, I started picking out the issues in my own paper. Learning that skill has helped me improve my writing dramatically. Although I came weary and skeptical of what I might
gain from the session, I left with a completely different outlook on the Writing Center.

I was no longer mandated to bring my work to be critiqued, yet I continued to do so because I felt that I would benefit from it. I brought all of my writing assignments to be reviewed before handing them in. With my very next paper, I had scheduled an appointment with Michael to look over an assignment which was due for my geography class. This time I was not skeptical at what the session could help me accomplish, but I was a little hesitant to work with someone other than David. However, I was blown away once again at how friendly and outgoing the tutors are, and Michael was no exception. He is a larger-than-life character whose presence fills the room, immediately making me feel comfortable. Even though he spoke more than David, he made references to modern culture, which made it easier to understand the lesson he was trying to teach. Similarly, he did not look down on me for making mistakes. He used analogies that helped me better understand the concept of coordinating conjunctions and how to use them properly in my paper. As the session progressed, I started to see my own omissions and I corrected them. By the end, I felt enlightened, and I learned a valuable skill that has helped me elevate my writing to a new level.

The third time I had decided to have my paper revised, I did not have the time to come in, so I scheduled an online appointment. It was quick and easy to set up. In lieu of having to go to Mason Hall, I could simply log on via my computer. The fact that the Writing Center is available in so many ways made it easy for me as a commuter to be able to have my paper reviewed on the weekend from home. I used this session to help me develop my concepts for my Political Science class and to condense them into just two pages. Personally, I prefer the face-to-face appointment where I can get to know the individual aiding me.

Nevertheless, I was once again taken aback at how effective was the meeting. David helped me to configure the flow of my essay with smooth transitions into each new idea. When I had asked him to look over my grammar, I was shocked at how my work was error free, after three simple corrections. He told me that I had put all of the commas in the right places and used great terminology in order to present my point across to the reader. I had felt so accomplished that not only did I take and fix my previous papers, but now I am able to prevent the issue from rising again. However, I am not the only person to have benefited from the Writing Center, Raymond Chappan said, “I found the Writing Center to be most helpful. They are non-prejudiced readers whose main purpose is to better my work. I have gone twice and both times I felt that my paper was better developed and that I have truly attained better writing skills.”

When Professor Gordon said that we had to interview a service provider, naturally I chose the Writing Center. I wanted to reveal what a resource it has been to me and my time here at Hofstra. I decided to interview David, since I spent the most time with him. Due to his laid-back and friendly nature, he agreed to be interviewed even with little knowledge as to my assignment and the questions that I would ask. I inquired about what he does there. Through my conversation with him, I learned that the service does not only do scholastic writing; they can help with many different things including resumes, papers, personal writing, even things as such as scripts and comic strips (Olsson). “Basically, if it is anything written, the tutors here can help you work on it in every stage of your writing, from just brainstorming or doing final edits”
(Olsson). There are many instructors in the Writing Center who have appointments every day of the week at many different times. David says that in the average week he helps around thirteen
different people. I found that incredible, so I asked him why he chooses to work at the Writing Center. His response was simple: “I always loved to read, especially about a wide variety of topics. I also wanted to help others, so the WC was a perfect fit.” As a tutor, David reads a variety of different topics and gains more knowledge on a myriad of subjects,while helping people improve their writing. I was also very curious as to what is the number one issue that arises in people's writing. According to him, a lot of people have trouble with the placement and use of commas. I could completely relate to this as I was one of the many who had the exact same issue. He says, “Commas are tricky, but once you know where they go it become a lot easier” (Olsson).

One thing that stood out to me in my interview with David was when he said, “People should know that we are only here to help, not to judge you and criticize you for making mistakes” (Olsson). Through my experiences, I found his statement to be true. No matter how stupid I thought the question was that I was asking, I knew that I could ask it because I wouldn't be ridiculed for it. I have used this facility every single time I have had a paper due, and until I feel that I am completely ready to skip that step, I will continue to do so.

The Writing Center has helped me to develop and to elevate my writing skills to a new level. Even though I was hesitant at first to go to for advice, I am glad to have gone. The tutors have helped me develop my writing in a nonjudgmental and cordial way. I felt at ease and comfortable talking about my writing and I became eager to know how to fix my issues. Like Deanna Weber, I went to the service skeptical and afraid of the unknown, but my experiences there have helped me to grow and have my confidence augmented (Weber). I am now able to take on a writing assignment knowing that I have the skills needed to succeed. I personally believe that if it hadn’t been for Professor Gordon requiring me to take my paper to the Writing Center, I would be a much more inexperienced writer.

Works Cited

David, Olsson. Personal Interview. 14 October 2015.

Raymond, Chappan. On the Writing Center. 26 October 2015.

Weber, Deanna. "Leaping out of the Cave and into the Light." Web log post. Taking Giant Steps . N.p., 11 Sept. 2015. Web.

"Writing Center." Writing Center . Hofstra University, n.d. Web. 26 Oct. 2015.

Friday, September 9, 2016

"Invisible Woman" by Morgan Parker

The modern day woman is active. She is a political titan, a social idol and a domestic leader. She has a voice that carries the war cries and merciless intentions of her fallen, but not in vain, predecessors. She speaks not for the ears of others, but for the indulgence and dignity in hearing her own voice. She speaks in statements, she speaks in movements, she speaks for all the empty throats of the women whose voices were drowned out by the heavy lull of time’s ignorance. She is a powerful force beckoning us towards a greater purpose yet still forcing us to find it on our own. Identifying as a modern day woman means many things but, above all else, it requires self discovery and self empowerment. First, I had to discover that I am an invisible woman!

I should say, rather, that I am one among a growing population of invisible women; a group of those unregistered on the visible spectrum of feminism's woman---a woman who is strong, independent and selfish in the best way. She redefined the role of women in the mid-20th century and continues to forge forward in the pursuit of justice. As a movement, feminism has grown and changed to fit the many decades it spans, yet it’s ideal has remained rigidly constant.  In 1963 Betty Friedan, a founder of feminism, wrote “A woman may live half her lifetime before she has the courage to listen to that voice and know that it is not enough to be a wife and mother, because she is a human being herself” (Friedan 5). For feminism’s woman, self-fulfillment is the key to true happiness. No longer should a woman aspire to home-making, but rather to education, to working and to making a life for herself. It is okay to be on a ruthless pursuit of self interest, as it is no longer selfish for a woman to want the best for herself since Friedan proclaimed, “Who knows what women can be when they are finally free to be themselves” (Friedan 10). This was an inspiring and welcomed change for the 1950’s woman because finally she could “learn to listen without fear to the voice inside her instead of smothering it” (Friedan 11). Feminism’s woman gained her trademark of independence to break ground on a new path and begin to change the course. There was now power and fashion behind this woman when the famous words of Gloria Steinem exclaimed, “A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle” (Parker 9).  I, at one time, wanted to be feminism’s woman; one who walks the Earth with eyes wide open, a heart impenetrable and arms outstretched with fingers to grasp only what she wants and palms to cast off that which she does not.

Furthermore, I had always felt that feminism was the most attainable form of liberation a woman could find, but even that no longer seemed true. I tried walking the path of the many remarkable women before me, all the while searching for small similarities to tell me I was headed towards the same great destination. However, all I had to do was look down because my footsteps were nowhere to be found. I had become invisible simply because I could not see myself in it. Alan Watts explains, “Just as sight is something more than all things seen, the foundation or 'ground' of our existence and our awareness cannot be understood in terms of things that are known” (Watts 21). Understandably so, I was invisible because I had tried to see my identity within the already established identity of another. Feminism’s woman was a role in the making years before I tried it on my own skin, which made it feel uncomfortable and restricting. It is of no use to hold onto such identities in “a human world that is changing so rapidly that much of what one learns in school is already obsolete on graduation day” (Watts 13). Thus, as a modern day woman I am challenged to make myself visible by creating my own individual path and understanding my own individual identity. Alan Watts said, “The less I preach, the more likely I am to be heard” (Watts 28). Similarly, the less I force myself upon the world, the more likely I am to be seen.

In this same degree, Gloria Anzaldua’s writing, “How to Tame a Wild Tongue,” explores creating individual identity against popular opinion. Although her story is one of national identity, the same theme of self-empowerment remains. She says, “Shame. Low estimation of self. Repeated attacks on our native tongue diminish our sense of self. The attacks continue throughout our life” (Anzaldua 2951). Constantly hearing the voices and opinions of others makes it nearly impossible to hear your own. These outside voices try to tell us a lot about ourselves, and believing them is the first way to let them know they are right. Trusting in your identity is just as important as discovering it because in the face of adversity, this is how we keep our tongues untamed and our feet planted in the ground.  Anzaldua writes, “Until I can take pride in my language, I cannot take pride in myself… I will no longer be made to feel ashamed of existing” (Anzaldua 2951).  

Certainly the modern day woman sees herself in many different ways, but often she neglects to understand the ways in which she is not seen. Through self discovery and self empowerment, we can truly understand individuality and identity. Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man says “I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me” (Ellison 3). I believe our invisibility occurs in three stages. The first is when our identity is ignored. Our differences go unappreciated by others, so we search to once again become visible in their eyes. We force ourselves into shapes we do not fit, try on uncomfortable skins and walk long paths with no destination in sight; and again, we find ourselves invisible. This time, however, it is because our identity is lost when our differences go unappreciated by ourselves. So again we search to become visible. We discover the reasons why these various shapes and skins and paths are uncomfortable and futile. And this time, we become invisible by choice when we discover our identity is separate from preconceived perceptions. We do not fall on the visible spectrum, because it is our individuality that becomes our identity; we discover the power in our invisibility.

I am an invisible woman; I am a blank piece of paper and an unmolded clay, I am all that has great potential and untold paths, I am all that possesses true freedom. Before I am anyone else, I am my own woman; I walk the Earth with eyes wide open as my heart and arms outstretched towards a great unknown, with fingers to grasp all that is new and palms to hold onto that which I shall keep for myself.  

Works Cited
Anzaldua, Gloria. "How to Tame a Wild Tongue." (n.d.): n. pag. 1987. Web. 06 Dec. 2015.

Ellison, Ralph. "Prologue." Introduction. Invisible Man. New York: Vintage International, 1995.
3-14. Print.

Friedan, Betty. "Women Are People, Too!" Good Housekeeping. N.p., 09 Aug. 2010. Web. 06
Dec. 2015.

Parker, Kathleen. "Clinton, Steinem and Albright Are #Outoftouch with Millennial Women." N.p., 16 Feb. 2016. Web. 17 Feb. 2016.

Watts, Alan. "Inside Information." The Book. ABACUS ed. London: Sphere, 1973. N. pag. Print.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

DREAMers' Lives Matter: Undocumented Students in Postsecondary Education by Nalani Goonetilleke



These are our children.  They grew up in our towns, they speak our language, they have worked and learned in our schools.  To leave them permanently exiled within their own world is not a policy – it is an abdication.                                                              
                                                                                        Eric Johnson


Indeed, as the current phrase goes, these undocumented students’ lives matter.  However, everyone has a different notion of what the American Dream entails.  For some it is the security of a white-picket fenced home with 2.5 children, but for newer generations it is often the opportunity to become an engineer, nurse, or even a doctor.  For undocumented students or DREAMers, this vision is often barricaded by federal and state laws that make continuing an education beyond high school a challenge within itself.


Undocumented students are classified as foreign-born students who came to the United States without the proper citizenship documents or entered legally as a nonimmigrant but remained in the United States upon completion of their terms.  Many of our undocumented students who are looking to pursue a higher education have lived in the United States most of their lives, came to the United States at a young age, are English speaking, attended primary and secondary school in the United States, and have excelled in high school.  Traditionally the laws have been peculiar.


The DREAM Act, known as the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors, was proposed in Congress in 2001.  It has continuously been reintroduced on the federal level but has not been passed.  The mission of the bill would permit undocumented youth to enlist in the U.S. armed forces or to pursue a higher education.  It would also work towards permanent resident status for undocumented children who were raised in the United States.  Although the federal DREAM Act did not pass, many states have their own version of the DREAM Act.  “At least 20 states have passed tuition equity policies for immigrant students, according to Tanya Broder, senior attorney at National Immigration Law Center.” (2015)  The state DREAM Acts are generally geared to supporting in-state tuition or eligibility for scholarships or state financial aid for undocumented students.  However, the qualifications are based on the state and the institution.  Upward social mobility for this targeted group would be the end result of the DREAM Act, but the legislature is resistant to passing it.  In the interim, another policy was established to alleviate some of the hardships that DREAMers face.


DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a policy that was established in 2012 by President Obama, supports deferred deportation to individuals who came to the United States under the age of 16 and are currently under the age of 31; there are also requirements that the individual must meet in order to qualify.  “DACA provides legal presence, but not legal status.” (2015)  Legal presence permits individuals to apply for employment, receive a Social Security number, and obtain a driver’s license.  This can increase their mobility economically and socially.  The policy grants a two-year period; however, the individual can renew if he/she still meets the requirements.  However, even in applying for DACA, the individual must openly expose their immigration status and contact information to the government.  Applying does not guarantee that they will be eligible. 


Laura Bohorquez contends: “The main difference is the DREAM Act would have given the community a path to residency and eventually citizenship… DACA is just work permit and protection from deportation.  It allows us to be able to work and afford our school, but it’s not a path to any type of status.” (2015)  Legal presence does not equate to legal status.  It is merely an acceptable way of being present in the United States.  DACA is a band-aid solution that essentially is enabling trouble. 


In Plyler v. Doe, the presence of minors in the education system also proved to be permissible. This 1982 Supreme Court case determined that all students in grades K-12 were guaranteed an education, regardless of their citizenship or residency status. (Perez 2014) This set the stage for undocumented children to have hope.  “According to the ruling, denying them that education would create a ‘lifetime of hardship’ for undocumented children and a ‘permanent underclass’ of individuals.” (Eusebio and Mendoza 4) The decision promised an education to all students, but this did not extend to a postsecondary education, where they could fulfill their dreams of becoming an engineer, nurse, or doctor.  Legally these students are required to attend school in grades K-12 but barriers are immediately in place once they work on continuing and advancing their education. 


My education progressed in the Freeport School District in Long Island from grades 1st through 12th.  The district’s demographics ranged from approximately 5% Whites, 32% Blacks, 2% Asians, and 59% Hispanics, with 17% limited English proficient students.  (Freeport School District) My graduating class at Freeport High School was filled with what I then believed to be students who lacked motivation because they did not continue their education beyond the high school diploma or GED.  In hindsight, perhaps it was a much more complex situation at hand.


It is my own experience that really evokes a distinct passion surrounding undocumented students.  Through my cousin Dushan, I have witnessed the personal struggles of an undocumented individual and the difficulties that he had obtaining a college education.  Dushan came to the United States as a child without the proper legal documents.  Growing up he experienced a life that was fully entangled into the American culture.  His parents worked to best adapt to American customs while encompassing our Sri Lankan heritage.  Upon completion of his senior year of high school, he, like his peers, strived towards a college degree.  He began taking courses at a community college because he was ineligible to receive financial aid.  During his time at the community college he excelled in all of his classes.  His parents were not able to keep up the college tuition expenses.  Unfortunately, a college degree became out of reach.  Twenty years later, he is a father of a high school senior.  He has high hopes of his son achieving the university diploma that he was unable to attain.  Perhaps the admission of Dushans’ son into college will be more accessible, simply based on his residency status.


College admission policies, tuition, and financial aid are three areas in which there are tremendous barriers for undocumented students.  These barriers do not make it impossible for the student but rather extremely difficult especially for a DREAMer who is already under difficult circumstances.  In respect to college admission, “there is no federal or state law that prohibits the admission of undocumented immigrants to U.S. college, public or private.” ("Advising Undocumented Students – Explaining Financial Aid | Education Professionals – The College Board”) However, on the contrary, each institution has different policies on admitting this demographic of students.  This policy can either work in favor of the student or be a great disservice to them.  Public institutions follow the guidelines of the state laws, giving them very little leeway to provide more access if the state does not do so.  Private institutions are autonomous and are not heavily-ruled or impacted by the government. 


Undocumented students are unable to receive federal funding for their education, which comes in the form of federal financial aid, work study and government loans.  They are often forced to pay out-of-state tuition rates regardless of them being in-state students.  Tuition for full-time enrollment can range from $15,000 to $40,000 per year.  More often these students are generally classified as international students, especially at private colleges and universities, despite any recognition of being a state resident.  International students receive significantly less aid.  The Institute for International Education (IIE) reported for the 2004-05 school year, it found that 80.9% of international students used payments extending from personal or family resources.  (“Financial Aid for Undergraduate International Students”) When classified as an international student, the undocumented student competes with students worldwide to fulfill the international quota at the institution.  Tuition at private institutions ranges from $80,000 to $200,000 over the span of four years.  Each state has different laws pertaining to funding and tuition for undocumented students.  Twenty states permit undocumented students to pay in-state tuition, including Florida and Utah.  States such as Alabama, South Carolina, and certain institutions in Georgia do not even permit undocumented students from even enrolling.  California, Hawaii, Minnesota, New Mexico, Oklahoma (certain grants), Washington state, and Texas provide state-based aid.  Illinois is the only state that has private scholarships for this population of students.  (Eusebio and Mendoza 2) Most undocumented students rely heavily on private scholarships which are still hard to attain due to most requiring one to be a U.S. citizen or a permanent legal residence.


Different states providing different levels of access to undocumented students create an uneven playing field for the undocumented community.  One student may have a more promising future simply based on the region that they live in.  States that provide in-state tuition or state-based aid demonstrate to their residents that they are willing to deliver more opportunities to future generations and future leaders. “In 2011, three states passed their in-state tuition laws including Connecticut, Maryland and Rhode Island.” (Rincon, 2016) In addition, “both California and Illinois passed laws to permit undocumented immigrant students’ greater access to such resources.” (Rincon 2016) California has the largest number of undocumented immigrants, representing 25% of all.  When states pass laws that are influential in determining the success of a prospective student, it impacts not only the student but it affects the family members, communities, the state and then the nation as a whole.  Breaking barriers to permit greater access to undocumented students has a profound effect ultimately on the nation.  The more that is invested into all millennials, the better equipped they are for the workforce, which positively effects our economy.


The state of California has tuition and financial aid policies that help undocumented students enroll at public institutions.  In addition, the costs are affordable and reasonable to the students.  On the other hand, states such as Georgia do not permit undocumented students to attend public institutions.  In the state of Missouri, there are constraints on tuition discounts and aid at state universities and colleges.  The state legislature of Missouri passed a law that undocumented students even with the DACA status were not eligible to receive scholarships toward community college tuition. (Gordon 2016) DACA recipients who qualify for in-state tuition increase the chance of pursuing a higher education because it becomes more affordable.  The affordability aspect makes college more accessible.  In addition, it increases the student’s persistence in completing their degree.


One of the continuing debates surrounds the issue of in-state versus out-of-state tuition:  Should longtime residents be charged in-state or out-of-state tuition?  “In February, the Georgia Supreme Court upheld the higher tuition when it ruled that the higher-education governing board could not be sued by immigrant advocates.” (Gordon 2016) The PBS article (Gordon 2016), states that at Georgia Southern University out-of-state tuition is $9,222 compared to $2,613, the tuition dollar for in-state residents.  In addition to the tuition debate, there is another debate surrounding DACA status for state financial aid: Should the student be eligible for state financial aid based on their DACA status?  State decisions largely contribute to this minority group transitioning into college.  Since undocumented students do not qualify for federal aid, when a state provides more financial assistance, more DREAMers become qualified to advance their education.


The “Repository of Resources for Undocumented Students” is a valuable source to students who are trying to get into a university. (Rincon 2016)  It provides information on selected state’s college guides, financial aid, scholarships, and support organizations.  The admission information focuses on available university guidelines and sample affidavits that undocumented students are required to complete.  The site contains information on scholarships and it further indicates the states that do provide financial aid.  Furthermore, the resource provides associations that work towards assisting undocumented students into higher education.  As previously illustrated, undocumented students are generally first-generation students, and therefore, the families often are not as knowledgeable about the resources or services available in order for these students to pursue a higher education. 


Additionally, this lack of familiarity extends to guidance counselors and support staff.  High school counselors may not be experienced in guiding undocumented students in how they can further their education, especially with all of the barriers that are dealt with.  The resources that are available are limited which only add to their limitations.  Educators, admission officers, and financial aid counselors need to be more familiar with the immigration laws.  These students need advocates as they navigate through an already perplexing system.  Once they are enrolled, administrators need to work on retaining the student.  Certain institutions have not updated their scholarship information on their website, which can deter students from even realizing that they are eligible to apply.


Throughout the history of higher education, each diverse group has experienced difficulties in breaking into higher education.  College initially began as solely geared for the elite.  From there different careers and jobs were added, which brought in and appealed to a different group of students.  This became a pattern in higher education; certain events were a catalyst to welcoming or embracing new students.  One very prominent time in history was the initiation of the GI Bill, which granted more access to veterans. 


Women and ethnic-minorities were once taboo in academia.  Today, institutions are filled with minorities of different backgrounds, gender, race, and disability status.  Higher education at one point was not an option for these groups of people; however, through time, college became more accessible.  It is with much hope that undocumented students will be able to attain greater access in higher education, so that they too can be just as remarkable and contribute to the collegial education system.  Obstacles for this targeted group carry throughout their educational experience.


With so many challenges being present for entering into college, many wonder about the challenges post-college.  There are opportunities available to undocumented students after they have obtained their degree.  Options include graduate school and various forms of legal employment which can consist of self-employed as an independent contractor, starting a company or working abroad.  In addition, in California DACA recipients can acquire their licenses in law, medicine, nursing and pharmacy.  A college degree determines and mitigates occupational status and socioeconomic status.  This population has been raised to strive for a better life.


According to the American Psychological Association, “There are one million children under 18 and 4.4 million under 30 living in America out of the estimated total of 11.1 million undocumented immigrants living in America….Nearly half of undocumented adults are parents of minors, many of whom are citizens.  There are an estimated 5.5 million children with at least one undocumented parent, 4.5 million of whom were born here making them U.S. citizens.” (“Undocumented Americans”) One million children under the age of 18 possess exceptional characteristics and have lived a life where they have triumphed adversity. 


“Brought to this country years ago, spirited across a border they were too young to comprehend by parents who wanted better for them, the children are beginning to understand their outlaw status.  They’ve begun to realize that our laws treat them as indefinite accomplices to a crime committed when they were toddlers.” (Johnson 2016) Living in a country illegally is not commended but often certain circumstances force families to choose that alternative in hopes of attaining a better life.  Once the student is here and has been educated through our system and adapted to our culture, how can we now make the “American Dream” so hard for them to reach?  Their family altered a certain lifestyle in order for them to succeed in the United States, but with obstacles in place, many of their hopes and dreams are put aside.  As Langston Hughes expressed, “what happens to a dream deferred?” (“Harlem – Poetry Foundation”) In examining students who are undocumented, each individual case is different.  However, many of these students come into the United States when they are younger and may even be unaware that they are undocumented.  Ironically, their immigration status may not be a factor that they are aware of until it is time for them to apply for college.  I hope this is not an answer to Hughe’s last line : “Or does it explode?” (“Harlem – Poetry Foundation”)


If we turn a blind eye to these students, then what it is to become of them?  Life with a college degree provides an entry way to a much better life; without a college degree life is significantly harder.  How can we expect those living in poverty and receiving government assistance to better themselves?  The Pew Hispanic Research Center, found that “nearly 30% of undocumented children live below the poverty line.” (Navarro 2013) A college education provides a life above the poverty level.  It is an entrance way to new opportunities, social mobility, and a better economic state.  If the DREAM Act were passed, students would be able to receive more financial assistance.  Although 30% live in poverty, that 30% would have boundless opportunities.


Consequently, the research reveals that undocumented students face an overwhelming number of adversities including “poverty, assimilation, language barriers, violence in their community or home environment, lack of access to health care, and mental health issues.”  (Eusebio and Mendoza 5) In facing a plethora of adversities, the pursuit of a postsecondary education is a major achievement.  The challenges that undocumented students face can also impede or impact their learning.  It has been shown that a great deal of undocumented students suffers from high levels of anxiety.  The frustrations and fears that undocumented students encounter on a daily basis include “isolation from their peers, the struggle to pursue an education, fears of detention and deportation, and the trauma of separation from family and loved ones.” (“Undocumented Americans”) 


The APA (“Undocumented Americans”) article further adds that this population is more likely to experience “racial profiling, ongoing discrimination, exposure to gangs, immigration raids in their communities, arbitrary stopping of family members to check their documentation status, being forcibly taken or separated from their families, returning home to find their families have been taken away, placement in detention camps or the child welfare system, and deportation.”  Having to deal with stressful situations on a regular basis plays a significant role on the individual’s emotions and behaviors. 


Many undocumented students demonstrate anxiety, fear, depression, anger, social isolation, and a lack of truly feeling as if they belong.  Undocumented individuals that have been detained or deported have a greater likelihood of possessing more emotionally disturbed characteristics.  “Researchers have found that they often experience in the short term, frequent crying, withdrawal, disrupted eating and sleeping patterns, anger, anxiety and depression.  Over time, these can lead to more sever issues like post-traumatic stress disorder, poor identity formation, difficulty forming relationships, feelings of persecution, distrust of institutions and authority figures, acting out behaviors and difficulties at school.” (“Undocumented Americans”) The feelings that these individuals have represent the traumatic real-life experiences that they have encountered.


Mental health is a major concern and a growing health issue with college-age students, which have been increasing over the years.  It is also linked to retention and academic performance. (Sierup 2015) Anxiety is the number one mental health issue amongst college students.  In addition to the previously mentioned persistent stressors that undocumented students deal with, there is also stress in just being a student.  The undocumented student is a minority and first-generation student.  There are so many expectations and pressures to succeed tied in with financial hardship and the traditional pressures that most students face.    


Depression is the second common mental health issue found on campuses.  College students are typically underinsured or uninsured and do not have access to mental health providers.  A psychiatric consultation ranges from $200-$600 and a psychological consultation fee ranges from $125-$300. (Seirup 2015) With the stress that this population already has plus the lack of access to healthcare, it is imperative that greater support be given to this population.  For the traditional college student, mental health is a huge issue, let alone for an undocumented student who is already struggling financially.


The benefits of a college education are limitless but as a nation we limit these benefits to those who fall under certain standards.  An undocumented student should not have a surplus of barriers just to advance themselves in society.  More education equates more opportunities.  Unemployment rates for those with less than a high school diploma are 11.2%, high school graduate 7.9%, some college 6.7%, and bachelors or higher 3.8%. (Seirup 2015)


Not only do students who graduate with a baccalaureate degree have a higher likelihood of being employed but they also earn more money over their lifetime.  The US Census found that the median earnings year round for full-time employment for individuals with less than a high school diploma $25,702, high school diploma $35,035, associate’s degree $42,419, bachelor’s degree $55,864, and master’s degree $68,879. (Seirup 2015) Financially the earnings separate college graduates from non-graduates but their also differences can be seen in their career, personal life, and their community involvement.  College graduates earn more money over their lifetime, earn more promotions, and have a less inconsistent job history. 


The personal life of a college graduate is generally filled with more developed relationships with people, fewer children on average, more involved in children’s lives, and stay married to the same person for a longer time.  College graduates are more likely to be leaders in their community, elected to public office, and enjoy the arts.  Traits or circumstances that college graduates are less likely to have would be unwillingly unemployed, use tobacco products, be swindled, be imprisoned, and become dependent on alcohol or drugs.  (Seirup 2015) The overall impact of a college education develops the individual’s knowledge, skills, increase self-awareness, understanding of the world of work, appreciation of lifelong learning, leadership roles, upward social mobility, and an increase in self-confidence and wellness. (Seirup 2015)


The benefits of attaining a college degree exceed that of not having a degree.  The positive qualities, attributes, and knowledge that is acquired during your undergraduate studies shapes and molds better citizens and individuals, undocumented students should not be counted out of these opportunities.  There is so much potential for success in their communities that needs to be evolved.  The lifelong effects of a postsecondary education truly cultivate an individual.  The college experience can shape a student’s attitudes and values.  HCAS Review of Research found that college influences a student’s view on “cultural, educational, sociopolitical, gender roles, religion, community and civic engagement.” (Seirup 2015)


It is at the institution that students are able to step out of their traditional element and onto new experiences.  Students are exposed to an array of events, people, and experiences which broadens their views, ideas, and actions.  For example, civic engagement during these formative years can also lead to greater community involvement post-college.  There is an increase in multicultural perspective, which results in an “increase in positive attitudes towards racial equality, tolerance, and preference.” (Seirup 2015) Furthermore, there is more value placed on “job autonomy, responsibility, and opportunity to use talents.” (Seirup 2015) The value of education is generally passed onto one generation to the next.  With undocumented students being the first-generation, it would promote a way out of poverty and into a more fulfilling life.


Today’s college or university places a strong focal point on diversity.  The enrollment and retainment of minorities as a whole has increased.  The Census Data has projected an increase in minority students and decrease in non-Hispanic whites by 2050.  (Seirup 2015) As minority groups increase on campus, presumably this will add to the volume of undocumented students as well.  Future administrators who are cognizant of trends will better prepare the institution in meeting the needs of the students they serve.  These groups of intelligent “DREAMers” have unique needs that administrators, support staff, and faculty members have to be willing to identify and effectively meet.  Multicultural competencies at colleges are significant; it shows the importance of being aware and knowledgeable of different cultures.  In working with undocumented students, it is key not to generalize and to be able to communicate amongst different cultures.  Demonstrating cultural sensitivity and appropriation brings a sense of comfort to prospective and current undocumented students as well as their families.  For many, this is the first family member to attend college in the United States; there is much pressure and uncertainty for both the student and the parents.  There are high expectations for the student to succeed.  If the institution in its entirety maintains a diverse culture and climate, then it will provide a better welcoming and sense of warmth to these dreamers.


The term “DREAMers” is frequently used to describe undocumented students.  A dreamer, deriving from the term dream, has various associations.  One of the most influential and memorable connotations is Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.  The remarkable and thought-evoking address describes a world in which people of all backgrounds are able to get along.  Not only does Martin Luther King Jr. envision a world of peace for all people but he states, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” (King 1963) Similarly, this notion of a dream, nonetheless the American dream, holds strong barriers to the present day dreamers.  They too are looking to attain the American Dream. 


Although the American Dream comes in different forms and ideas, it centers on the concept of equality for all.  Equality of all people shouldn’t be contingent upon citizen status or ethnic background, rather the drive or enthusiasm that each individual has that pushes them to greatness.  “By the content of their character,” Martin Luther King Jr., urged. (King 1963) Over fifty years later, this statement still holds significance in the minority population.  It is no irony that that joins the term DREAMers in both of the senses but rather the connection that is shared.


It was in the fourth grade that we learned about the terms melting pot and equality.  We were also educated on how people migrated to this country just to have equal rights.  Twenty years later, I am left perplexed by what I learned in the education system of melting pots and equality and how it does not seem to apply to everyone.  As an American citizen, I will presumably work on my American dream of the white-picket fence.  And for the DREAMerS, they will silently scream for equality and silently scream for a chance in pursuing their education, while maintaining high hopes of not being deported.  Although raised and educated in the United States, they still have not received their piece of the American dream.



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