TUSD Pledges to be ‘Destination District’

The Tucson Unified School District is promising to welcome and provide educational opportunities to all of its students, regardless of immigration status.

At the end of March, the TUSD Governing Board voted unanimously 5-0 on a resolution that labeled the district as an “immigrant destination district,” and to support National Educator’s Coming Out Day, celebrated on April 9 nationwide.

“America, I believe, is still the greatest nation in the world because our goal has always been to be that hope in educating people,” TUSD Superintendent H.T. Sanchez said. “It’s always been our strength, why wouldn’t we educate the people here who want an education?”

Before the vote, members from Scholarships A-Z, an online scholarship resource, approached Sanchez asking him to put up a banner online stating TUSD is an immigrant-welcoming district. The members presented a resolution to Sanchez who then put it on the board’s agenda for the next day.

After the unanimous vote, Sanchez instigated training for the district’s employees on the importance of providing educational opportunities to all students.

Sanchez is from Texas where he said all students, including those not with documents can receive in-state tuition at every university. In Arizona, Pima Community College is the only higher education institution that offers this.

“These students are asking for support, so how could I not support something that is just good practice where I’m from?” Sanchez said.

He said he hopes Arizona will one day offer this kind support in higher education.

“I think every district should open their doors and educate the kids who walk through them,” Sanchez said. “I believe the institutions of higher education should offer higher education to students who are undocumented.”

Going forward, Sanchez said every student in TUSD will receive the proper education to prepare them for college. Also, as part of their training, the counseling department will learn about the resources available and help these students find a way to attend a state institution after high school. This is help previous TUSD students did not receive.

Erick Aparicio, former TUSD student and resources and families coordinator at Scholarships A-Z, said that while he was in high school he was not given the resources that would have helped him plan for college.

“These students weren’t receiving that much help from them (teachers and advisors),” Aparicio said. “What I saw was a lot of these students not having a goal or any possibilities to attend college.”

Sanchez said that for students who have the grades and the desire to further their education, TUSD schools will line them up with Scholarships A-Z or partner organizations to help with getting into college.

“We don’t turn anybody away and it means we are very purposeful in sharing this information and saying, ‘Yes, you can go to college and we will find a way to get you there,’” Sanchez said.

The day after the TUSD Governing Board’s vote, Sunnyside Unified School District joined Aparicio and Scholarships A-Z’s efforts.

“They’ll (TUSD and SUSD) definitely be a role model for the other districts,” Aparicio said. “We expect that every school district in the country will sign off on a resolution like TUSD did.”

SUSD’s Assistant Superintendent, Eugenia Favela, said the district’s goal is to never discriminate and provide the best education to all of its students.

“We are saying we support the education of all our students,” Favela said.

With local districts getting on board with this resolution, Sanchez said he is hopeful that students, legal or not, can get in-state tuition and access to all higher education institutions in the entire state of Arizona, like Texas.

Aparicio, a second year business student at Pima Community College, said he hopes that all students will feel like they have the resources to pursue an education after high school.

“Regardless of their immigration status or economic status, there is a lot of help and they won’t be discriminated against for these reasons,” Aparicio said. “We hope they get the empowerment and motivation to get the best out of high school.”

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