DREAMing of science: undocumented Latin@s' testimonios across the borderlands of high school science

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Jean Rockford Aguilar-Valdéz (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site: http://library.uncg.edu/
Jewell Cooper

Abstract: This qualitative study uncovers the voices of five Latin@ students who are high-"achieving" and undocumented and have strong aspirations in science, in a Southern, Title I high school. Through critical race methodology and these students' testimonios/counter-stories, these students' struggles and successes reveal their crossing of cultural and political borderlands and negotiating structures of schooling and science. The students dream of someday pursuing a trajectory in the field of science despite racial, ethnic, and political barriers due to their undocumented status. I use three key theoretical approaches--Borderlands/Anzaldúan theory (Anzaldúa, 2007), Loving Playfulness/World Traveling (Lugones, 2003), and Latino Critical Race Theory (in which many Latin@/Chican@ studies contribute)--to put a human face on the complex political and educational situations which the students in this study traverse. Data were collected during a full school year with follow-up contact into the present, with over 133 hours immersed in the field, involving 22 individual student interviews, six student focus group interviews, 14 teacher interviews, field notes from over 79 contact hours with participants in formal and informal science education settings, and document review. This study reveals high-"achieving" students flourishing in formal school science and informal science settings, starting a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) club and the first community garden in a Title I high school in their state, to benefit their immigrant-rich community. Each student professes agentic desire to follow a science trajectory but testifies to their struggle with racism, nativism, and state policies of restricted college access. Students persevere in spite of the additional obstacles they face, to "prove" their "worth" and rise above deficit narratives in the public discourse regarding students of their ethnicity and undocumented status, and hold onto hope for legislation such as Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR) or the DREAM (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) Act. These students' lived realities, identifying as undocumented and DREAM Act eligible, also known as "DREAMers," show that more work must be done, beyond the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) permits some have received, before these students' dreams can be realized. The students' testimonios call for a space in the U.S. where their talents and dreams in science are welcome and can thrive. These students speak to the injustice inherent in shutting out talented youth with potential contributions to make to science due to an immigrant status that was never their choice. Given the dearth of highly skilled and committed contributors to the field of science in the U.S., especially scarce in Latin@ representation, these students' prospects are vital in an increasingly globalized scientific world. This study makes this case as a deliberate appeal to interest convergence, while also attending to issues of social justice and problematizing the culture of school power that these students must navigate and assimilate into to "prove" themselves. This study adds to the science education research by providing insights into the lives of students who are Latin@ and undocumented, a considerable population in many science classes yet rarely discussed in science education literature, and elucidating how they negotiate science and science education framed by the larger structures they must face. Implications of this study suggest new ways of understanding this population in non-deficit ways that advocate changing the public dialogue and taking educational and political steps towards social change in solidarity with this group of students.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2013
Borderlands, LatCrit, Latin@, Science, Testimonio, Undocumented
Minorities in science $z United States
Latin Americans $x Education (Secondary) $z United States
Hispanic American youth $x Education (Secondary) $z United States
Illegal aliens $x Education (Secondary) $z United States

Email this document to