ASU immigrant advocacy club hands the mic to undocumented students

Still We Rise is an open-mic night and talent showcase organized by Undocumented Students for Education Equity at ASU

As undocumented students at ASU continue to rise above the unique obstacles that stand between them and their education, one ASU club aims to celebrate this resilience at its open-mic night Still We Rise.

Organized by the Undocumented Students for Education Equity at ASU, or USEE, the event aims to connect people through stories, poems and music to encourage a community of support, and will be held on March 21 in the Secret Garden at ASU's Tempe campus.

Leslye Carrillo, a member of USEE and sophomore majoring in justice studies at ASU's The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, said that the open-mic night is named after the 1978 poem “Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou. 

Carillo said members of USEE chose to adapt the title to Still We Rise in order to promote a more inclusive attitude. 

“It really includes everyone because you cannot withstand so much negativity without having a support system,” she said. “Despite the really harsh political climate right now and despite the policies that have been affecting undocumented students in Arizona, we are still rising. We’re still thinking about our community constantly.”

Stephanie Robles, chief of staff for USEE and a junior majoring in political science and communications at ASU's New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, said that while the club has been actively participating in political actions lately, they also had a strong desire to create an artistic space for the community as well. 

Robles said the main goal for Still We Rise is to create and solidify a sense of community for ASU students and also anyone else who is interested in participating.

“It's very powerful to allow somebody to share their story,” she said. “They're really coming to us with their emotions and letting us know what they're going through. That not only brings healing, but it also is powerful and empowering to people listening.”

As part of the event, Robles said she is in charge of a display that will be available to attendees of the event, which will feature photos and quotes of immigrants from the community.

Robles said that USEE will also be giving out t-shirts to attendees, and ask that people donate money as they are able. The donations collected will go directly to the USEE club to raise funds for a new scholarship fund they are in the process of creating to benefit undocumented students.

Emir Estrada, an assistant professor in the ASU School of Human Evolution and Social Change and faculty advisor of USEE, said that the new scholarship is intended to help undocumented students with their unique financial concerns, such as the costly fees that come with renewal of status through DACA.

Undocumented students and DACA recipients currently don't qualify for federal student aid.

Estrada said that besides the additional challenges they face with finances, undocumented students face a number of other pressures that can be difficult and discouraging in their pursuit of education.

She said legislative decisions and executive orders have instant effects on undocumented students and directly influence daily choices they make in their college and career paths.

Estrada said that the event is an opportunity for the community to become aware of the struggle and resilience of undocumented students at ASU and beyond. 

"I'm very blown away by how resilient these students are," she said. "They organize and build community, and they are empowered by their stories. Where others could see it as the hardship that would cause many to give up, these students keep fighting and advocating for themselves and each other."

Reach the reporter at or follow @MarissaWhitey on Twitter. 

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