The Dream Peer Counseling Project to help undocumented students’ emotional need

While the Dream Act Bill signed by Gov. Jerry Brown last October made it easier for undocumented students to get state-funded scholarships, the Dream Peer Counseling Project will help undocumented students manage their social and emotional needs. According to the Dream Resource Center website, undocumented students experience a substantial level of anxiety and stress due to their growing up in an American culture that is highly outspoken and often negative about illegal immigration.

Kent Wang, director of UCLA MSW program, explained that students’ psychological health can be affected by their fear of deportation.

“They’re coming home each day not knowing whether their parents are going to be there when they get home, or whether they would themselves get picked up and get deported,” Wang said.

The Dream Peer Counseling Project is a program that will provide a safe environment in which the undocumented youth can address their day-to-day mental health needs.

The Dream Resource Center website states that “the project’s mission is to offer an environment that promotes communal support, collective healing and self-empowerment, where students can discuss their ongoing stressors and successes, and offer professional referrals when necessary.”

UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs and The Dream Research Center collaborated to present the new project at the UCLA Downtown Labor Center last Tuesday.

During the project presentation event, three graduated students shared their experiences on what it is like to grow up as an undocumented child and student in the U.S.

According to UCLA graduate, Imelda Plascencia, she had to deal with depression and a constant fear of her or one of her family members being deported. Plascencia described, “being constantly scared of what is to come.”

Plascencia said that her participation in the development of DPCP gave her hope and helped her regain strength. “Being part of this project was part of my healing process,” Plascencia said. She later on stated that the undocumented community has a lot of strength, and the Dream Project will help foster that strength.

The DPCP is planning to provide various programs focusing in academics, job assistance, and psycho-educational workshops. The program will have social workers, counselors, psychologists, and educators in order to offer professional assistance to undocumented students.

The DPCP will also foster leadership development, educational opportunities, and resources for undocumented immigrants. DPCP’s mission to offer a full service program of support to the undocumented youth is supported by the California Community colleges system and other organizations that support undocumented students rights.