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Real Hope bill brings promise to UW Bothell students and their families

University of Washington Bothell - Contributed art
University of Washington Bothell
— image credit: Contributed art

The following is a release from the University of Washington Bothell:

When Gov. Jay Inslee signs the Real Hope Bill into law today, it will be a culmination of the hard work of many advocates across the state, including several University of Washington Bothell students. The following are the stories of a few UW Bothell students who are willing to share their journey with the media.

Ricardo Heredia says as much as he would like to attend the signing, he must attend his regular classes. He values every hour he can get out of his college education, “My parents left their families and everything they knew in Mexico to give me a better life. My mother hasn’t seen her mother in 23 years,” he says. “The only way to pay them back is to get an education and pay them back when I am in a better position.”  He took his story to Olympia to fight for the Real Hope Act on Latino Legislation day.

Heredia echoes the sentiments of many students throughout the UW Bothell campus where 46 percent of the student population is first generation, some of them are undocumented.

Chancellor Wolf Yeigh says he joins the UW Bothell campus community in celebrating the hard work that contributed to the signing and what it means for students, “The Real Hope Bill will help break down a major barrier to higher education by providing promising students opportunity and access.” He added, “Many of our students and others in the campus community worked tirelessly to ensure passage of this bill and I applaud them.”

Alejandra Pérez will attend today's signing. The sophomore majoring in society, ethics and human behavior is a first generation student from Guatemala. She says this legislation will bring her closer to realizing her dream of graduating from college. Coming from a single parent low-income household, Perez says she knows how hard the process of funding a college education is. “I’m not just the first in my family. I was the first one in my high school community, I had to find my own resources and it worked for me. But this opportunity will make it easier for my younger brother, my peers and for all of those who are coming after me.”

Maria Cortes could only afford to take one class when she started at UW Bothell. The community psychology major moved from Colombia to the U.S. when she was five years old. Determined to get the most out of her education, she did Running Start at Bellevue College while still at Juanita High School and then attended Bellevue College after graduation. “Since transferring to UW Bothell, I’ve received no financial help. Once I received the documentation I needed to work, balancing college classes and work became insane.” Her determination is paying off. Maria stays on the Dean’s List and plans to graduate in Fall 2014. She says Real Hope would have made things a lot easier for her, but a lot of students who are entering college will have a great opportunity to apply for all of the benefits that she never had.

As with most undocumented college students, those at UW Bothell have a lot riding on their shoulders. Like Heredia, most of their parents are here to give their children a chance at a better life. In addition to their own dreams, they are often carrying the dreams of their parents, their younger siblings and even their communities.

That is the pressure Faride Cuevas feels as she attends classes and works more than 40 hours a week to pay for them. Cuevas also lobbied for the Real Hope Act and the Dream Act as she shared her story with senators in Olympia. She says the lack of funding means attaining her college degree will take longer, but she is not discouraged, “I want to be able to provide for my 15-year old twin siblings and the rest of my family.”

“I’m excited to see this opportunity for the kids that I mentor,” says Heredia. In addition to their classes and their work with the Real Hope Act, both Faride and Heredia are also focused on those coming behind them. Both share their stories and encouragement at local high schools.

No one knows what all of these students are going through more than Ray Corona, who chose to publicly reveal his undocumented status from the forefront of efforts to push this bill into law since 2009.  Corona’s education was fully funded by private scholarships. He recently graduated from UW Bothell and joined the university as an admissions advisor traveling to junior high and high schools with large underserved populations, including undocumented students. He says he is excited to be on hand tomorrow as the Real Hope bill becomes law, "The students that I now see on a regular basis have more hope," he says. “What this means is accessibility for students who aspire to enroll at a state university or community college. They have options.”

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