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Congratulations, Immigrant Youth Empowerment Conference (IYEC)! The UCLA Volunteer Center is presen...

Bruin Heroes Award, Spring ’10 – Immigrant Youth Empowerment Conference (IYEC)

May 1st, 2010

Congratulations, Immigrant Youth Empowerment Conference (IYEC)!

The UCLA Volunteer Center is presenting the Bruin Heroes Award for May to the Immigrant Youth Empowerment Conference (IYEC), an event initiated by the group Improving Dreams, Equality, Access and Success (IDEAS) at UCLA to promote the educational, political, social, and financial empowerment of undocumented students. IYEC was designed as a forum to follow up on workshops facilitated by the AB540 Project, the recurring service component of IDEAS whose mission is to increase awareness of the AB-540 law. IYEC organizers hope to outreach to over 800 high school and community college students, more than three times the attendance of its first run in 2008. The 3rd annual Immigrant Youth Empowerment Conference will be held on May 30, 2010.

According to IDEAS, many undocumented students don’t know they have that status until they begin applying for college. They become discouraged especially due to lack of financial resources. Undocumented students are ineligible for governmental grants and loans, and are unable to work on campus. As a result of the 32% fee increase implemented last quarter, 20% of IDEAS membership dropped because students were unable to pay for tuition and fees. In response, the organization raised nearly $50,000 to help support their peers who have returned for Spring Quarter. Fourth year student Eder Gaona says of fellow of IDEAS members, many of whom will volunteer at IYEC, “They are pretty impressive individuals. Very talented.”

IDEAS hopes that by attending IYEC, students will have the opportunity to more fully engage themselves in the conversation of higher education, and discover what resources are specifically available to them. More importantly, students will find a group of individuals who understand the struggles undocumented students face, and a strong network of support that encourages intellectual and academic growth regardless of immigration status.

To third year student Sofia Campos, “IDEAS has provided me a home away from home. It is my support group and a source of empowerment. IDEAS has provided me with a sense of consciousness that I would never have experienced anywhere else.”

Of the 65,000 high school graduates that are undocumented, only 5-10% pursue higher education even with the passage of Assembly Bill 540 in California that allows undocumented students to pay in-state tuition at California public colleges. Says Gaona, “IYEC hopes to create an interest in students that maybe would not have been there before.” The conference will be a day-long event which will consist of various workshops to educate, motivate, and increase participant self-efficacy through skill development in activism, organizing efforts, and usage of available resources in order to advocate for one’s educational rights. Of what IDEAS has been able to accomplish, Gaona says, “We pride ourselves in all the work we do. It’s been tough but all worthwhile.”

More About the Bruin Heroes Award

The Bruin Heroes Award recognizes innovative and inspiring projects organized by UCLA organizations. Every day, thousands of students work in hundreds of groups on service projects worldwide. As a public institution, UCLA is dedicated to service and values the hard work of these Bruins and the passion motivating their endeavors. The goal of this award is to shine a light on these efforts.

The Bruin Heroes Award will be awarded monthly by the UCLA Volunteer Center. Award recipients are selected by the Volunteer Center Fellows from among a pool of nominations compiled by a group of chief campus advisors. Winners of the award receive recognition and support from the Volunteer Center as well as a monetary award. For more information email:

As of April 6, 2012, the Bruin Heroes Award has been renamed the Mongelli Award for Excellence in Civic Engagement. For more information regarding this honor, please visit:
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