Dozens gathered at the Puerto Rican and Latin American Cultural Center Thursday evening to learn about and craft personal and passionate testimonies in support to the Afford to Dream Bill.
PRLACC hosted the event to inform people of an upcoming public hearing in Hartford for a bill which would allow undocumented students in Connecticut to be able to apply for institutional financial aid.
“It’s literally as simple as changing a piece of paper,” Kenneth Reveiz said. “It’s a very straightforward solution that would change people’s lives.”
Several states, including California and Texas, have programs in place that allow undocumented students, who cannot fill out the FAFSA form because they do not have a Social Security Number, to receive institutional aid.
“It needs to pass this year because all these folks have waited too long. It’s long overdue.” Joseline Tlacomulco, a sixth-semester political science human rights double major, said. “We’re asking for some of the money we’re paying into.”
Tlacomulco said, as an undocumented student, the bill directly impacts her.
“It affects me, it affects a lot of undocumented students who want to go to college [who are in college] who deserve to be here,” she said.
Those who attended the event spent part of the evening working on writing testimonies to present to the Higher Education and Employment Advancement Committee Tuesday, with an emphasis on sharing their personal convictions and experiences.
“My whole life my mom has been really big on how education is the only thing you have,” Nia Samuels, a fourth-semester mechanical engineering major said. “I can imagine how hard that would be to grow up with that same mentality, that same push and not have the ability to go on to higher education.”
Reviez said the testimonials should reach out to the committee members using an emotional appeal.
“The goal is to be clear and tell something personal that will catch their attention,” Reviez said. “If you have a story you think will highlight why this needs to happen and why it needs to happen now [share it].”
Those who attended the event hope the bill, which has been introduced multiple times, will finally make it through this year.
“Our allies in the legislature said the fifth year is a good year for a bill like ours,” Camille Kirtzman, the Hartford Regional Organizer for Connecticut Students for a Dream and UConn graduate, said.
Last year, the motion to pass the bill in committee was proposed by Senator Mae Flexer and seconded by Representative Gregg Haddad, who serve the Mansfield area.
“I think it will mean a lot to them to see a whole bus of students coming from UConn,” Kirtzman said. She said that Haddad and Flexer have both been strong supporters of the bill.
Last year, hundreds of dreamers, allies and educators came to the public hearing to support the bill, Kirtzman said.
“This year I think the number will be bigger because we’re doing a lot of work to get people involved.” she said. “The room is going to be filled with people from all around the state.”
The major focus of the night was to have those in attendance understand the impact their testifying or just showing up can have on the bills’ passage.
“It’s just a chance for the community to show up and stand up in from of the Higher Education Committee (and) say you support the bill,” Aleysa Negron Carrero a senior Latino and Latin American studies major said. “It’s a really great way to show your solidarity, show your support.”
Negron Carrero emphasized that even people who would not personally be affected by the bill should show that they support it.
“You don’t have to be an undocumented person to testify,” she said. “In fact, allies need to step up and show up.”
The hearing for the bill, will be held from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Legislative Office Building in Hartford. Anyone who wishes to submit their testimony online must email it to HEDtestimony@cga.ct.gov by 10 a.m. Tuesday morning and put the title of the bill, HB-5031, in the subject. Even those who plan to speak in person should email their testimony so that it can be on record and reviewed. Speakers will have approximately three minutes to address the committee.
Anyone who wishes to testify at or to attend the hearing can sign up online with Connecticut Students for a Dream.