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Keeping the DREAM Alive

Jesus Cisneros, cofounder of DREAMZone, discusses the unique challenges facing undocumented students and higher education
Jesus Cisneros

While a doctoral student at Arizona State University (ASU), Jesus Cisneros was struck by the lack of visible supports in place for undocumented students in the higher education setting. Especially surprising was that this was Arizona, as he calls it, "the hotbed of immigration." Cisneros felt that something needed to be done, so in 2012, he co-founded DREAMzone, an initiative with the goal of responding to the needs of these underserved students and creating an ally network at ASU. It has now grown beyond ASU, forming strategic partnerships with organizations such as TheDream.US and Teach For America.

With DREAMzone, says Cisneros, they have been able to challenge practitioners to both recognize and better serve the needs of undocumented students in all aspects of higher education, from financial aid and scholarships to smaller barriers like social security number or state ID requirements on forms and applications. It is important to understand, he says, that not all stories of all students in all states are the same.

"We need to be cognizant of the different situations that students may be in, and the implications of that," says Cisneros.

In this edition of the Harvard EdCast, Cisneros, now assistant professor at the University of Central Arkansas, discusses the unique challenges facing undocumented students and higher education, and how to keep the dream alive.

About the Harvard EdCast 

The Harvard EdCast is a weekly series of podcasts, available on the Harvard University iTunes U page, that features a 15-20 minute conversation with thought leaders in the field of education from across the country and around the world. Hosted by Matt Weber and co-produced by Jill Anderson, the Harvard EdCast is a space for educational discourse and openness, focusing on the myriad issues and current events related to the field.


An education podcast that keeps the focus simple: what makes a difference for learners, educators, parents, and communities

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