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Undocumented but not Unheard

First-generation CMU student to lead pioneering session at CIVSA SDI

Colorado Mesa University Ambassador Co-President, Ana Carbajal Barahona, has been selected to present at the forthcoming Collegiate Information & Visitor Services Association - Student Development Institute (CIVSA SDI) in January next year. The conference, hosting a cohort of over 500 tour guides and ambassadors, serves as a platform for sharing best practices in the realm of university tour guiding. Carbajal Barahona's proposal, Undocumented not Unheard, stands out as a groundbreaking session, dedicated to bridging the informational gap in supporting undocumented students.

Carbajal Barahona's proposal stems from her observations during her previous attendance at SDI, where she identified a significant lack of knowledge and resources among tour guides and ambassadors about supporting undocumented students. Motivated by this gap, Carbajal Barahona submitted her proposal to address this vital subject matter. Her session at CIVSA represents a groundbreaking opportunity to advocate for the support of undocumented students within a broader audience of tour guides and ambassadors.

There are over 408,000 undocumented students enrolled in higher education in the United States and there are an estimated 12 million people who are undocumented living in the country. Students who are undocumented often face obstacles when navigating the application, acceptance and financial aid processes when deciding where and if to attend college. One common fear and misconception is that the legal status of one’s family can be jeopardized by applying to an institution, but under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), it is illegal to disclose the details regarding any applicant’s citizenship status. After the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program was passed in 2012, all DACA recipients were granted the right to work, hold a driver’s license, and attend school in the United States and a variety of pathways to citizenship are possible.

To ensure a polished and impactful presentation, Carbajal Barahona arranged two mock sessions for practice and refinement at CMU where the campus community rallied to support her. She intends to incorporate the insights gathered from these initial sessions to enhance her final presentation at CIVSA SDI.

At the beginning of her presentation, Carbajal Barahona clearly articulated what she hoped attendees would walk away with after hearing her presentation.

“After this presentation, I hope that you will have gained more knowledge about undocumented students, better understand the different challenges undocumented students may face, and can work to find ways that you as an individual, and your institution, may be able to support undocumented students,” said Carbajal Barahona.

Carbajal Barahona's initiative in sharing her story and addressing the needs of undocumented students is a testament to the empowerment that CMU strives to provide for all first-generation students. Her courage in paving the way for a more inclusive and supportive environment for all students and deserves recognition and appreciation.

As Chief People Officer and Assistant Vice President for Human Resources and Culture at CMU Sharaya Cowan explained, “Ana is providing the courage for the next person that walks in her shoes.”

If you or someone you know has any questions regarding applications, financial aid and available supports at CMU, regardless of their citizenship status, please reach out to the talented team at CMU’s Admissions Office. La información también está disponible en español aquí.


Written by Giff Walters