Education for all: Morgan partners with The Dream.US with scholarships for undocumented students

Morgan State University, The Dream.US, and Undocubear are striving to support undocumented students in their pursuit of higher education.

Jordynn Blackwell, Staff Writer

The newly established student organization “Undocubear” founded by Morelys Urbano, a sophomore multimedia journalism major, has become a safe space for undocumented students at Morgan State University.

After the university’s highest rate of student enrollment in 2022, Morgan is striving to become a welcoming community for all of its students.

The university has partnered with TheDream.US to present 10 academic scholarships for the 2023-2024 academic year. The announcement comes after TheDream.US opened its new round of scholarships for the 2023-2024 academic year, from Nov. 1 to the end of February 2023.

The scholarship is open to undocumented students with or without DACA (Deferred Action for Child Arrivals) or TPS (Temporary Protected Status) who arrived in the United States before Nov. 1, 2017, or the age of 16. The award is for tuition and fees up to $33,000 for a bachelor’s degree, enough to pay for the annual cost of in-state tuition, fees, and room and board.

“Morgan is one of only two institutions in the state and one of the only two HBCUs in the country that is a partner with this organization,” Kara Turner, vice president of enrollment management and student success said. “It really puts us, in many ways, at the forefront of supporting a population that frequently does not have financial opportunities to go to college.”

TheDream.US is the nation’s largest college success program for Dreamers, young undocumented immigrants who arrive in the United States as children. In their five years of operation, the program has awarded more than $141 million in scholarships for over 3,300 students since 2018.

When Urbano first arrived at Morgan, she made it her goal to start the conversation of immigration on campus, a topic she believes is not prevalent. However, she was instantly met with hurdles in her path, ranging from trouble with the financial aid office, FAFSA, and not having a social security number.

“Everytime I would ask a question, the only response I would get is ‘Well, why don’t you get a social security number,’” Urbano said. “It’s really not that easy. That made me realize that there’s a big issue here and I felt like there had to be someone to educate people and that person had to be me.”

Urbano shortly turned her setbacks into inspiration; she began to gather a few of her friends and joined the ‘Welcome Back Congress’ march in September 2021 to address immigrant rights. She was asked to bring 10 fellow students, yet she ended up recruiting four buses of students.

“This was in September, shortly after school started in August,” Urbano said. “We were freshman, only been in school for a few weeks and we ended up taking 152 students to Washington D.C. to march for immigration reform. It was the biggest immigration march of 2021. Just seeing the fact that [Morgan State] and its students went out of their way to support a cause that is so important to me was incredibly inspiring.”

She also expressed her honor of meeting Ilhan Omar and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, both open advocates and allies for immigration reform.

The success of the march inspired Urbano to publicize the issues she faced in Morgan’s administration. In a town hall meeting, she voiced to University President David Wilson her experiences as an undocumented student.

“I told them about my experience from when I first came to [Morgan State] and how for students like me, for us to achieve an education we have to go over the top and be open about our immigration status,” Urbano said.

After immigrating to the United States five years ago from Spain, originally from the Dominican Republic, Urbano believes it’s important for undocumented students to be open about their immigration status and share the hardships they go through. She hopes that Undocubear aids other undocumented students feel comfortable to tell their story.

“[Undocubear] brings resources and awareness to undocumented students throughout campus,” said Addis Romero, a freshman strategic communications major. “It’s important because not everyone believes the undocumented community is important because it doesn’t directly affect them. We are very inclusive to both allies and non-allies, in just trying to include everyone.”

Urbano’s story was an eye opener for many in Morgan’s administration; after hearing her speak at the town hall meeting, Morgan has become determined to set an example for other universities across the nation to open its opportunities to undocumented students.

“I think [Morgan State] is setting an excellent example, I am very proud of us,” said Kara Turner, vice president of enrollment and student affairs. “For those who haven’t seen this in a positive light, it’s important to know that this is private money from an institution that is dedicated to providing support for undocumented students. I think that’s a beautiful thing.”