Support, community, advocacy: A look into the IDEAS mentoring program

Two students stand and smile in front of the camera
Mariana Acevedo PO ’24 and Verrels Eugeneo PO ’25, two mentors from the Improving Dreams, Equality, Access, and Success (IDEAS) mentoring program reflect on how the program has impacted them and the broader community of undocumented/DACAmented students on campus. (Esha Champsi • The Student Life)

Be it through 5K runs, retreats or career advice, undocumented and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) students at the Claremont Colleges come together to build community as part of the Improving Dreams, Equality, Access and Success (IDEAS) mentoring program.

As the mentoring counterpart of the 5C IDEAS club, the program focuses on peer-to-peer mentorship, community building and advocating for support and resources for undocumented and DACA students.

This year, the head mentors for the group are Mariana Acevedo PO ’24, Verrels Eugeneo PO ’25 and Fernando Cano PO ’24.

Modeled after the DREAM Resource Center at UCLA, the IDEAS mentorship program was originally fully student-run. However, several years ago, it became a part of the Cultural Communities and Mentor Programs (CCMP) at Pomona College, said Acevedo. This means the mentorship program is now subject to the college’s oversight and that mentors can be paid for their work, as they are employed by the school.

Eugeneo has been part of the IDEAS mentoring program since he got to campus. This year, he was inspired to take on the role of head mentor to provide guidance and support to people from backgrounds similar to his own.

“I believe that everyone deserves the opportunity to be placed in a position to succeed,” he said in an email to TSL.

Echoing Eugeneo, Acevedo said that she enjoys organizing events and creating a space for undocumented and DACAmented students on campus. This year, the group wants to increase communication with faculty and staff, who can advocate for increased resources and support for the immigrant community, Acevedo said.

“With increased visibility, people will be aware of our existence and anyone identifying as undocumented/DACAmented will know that we are a resource and a possible community for them, whether or not they want to be a mentee or a mentor,” she said.

Another goal of the program is to continue building community and support mentees through personal, professional and academic endeavors, according to Eugeneo. They plan to do this by holding various events and workshops throughout the semester.

One of their biggest events is the 5K Dream Run, in collaboration with the IDEAS club. The race is held during “Undocuweek” in April, a week full of events for undocumented students. The run is open to all and the funds raised are used to fund scholarships for undocumented students.

The IDEAS mentor program also hosts social events like a roller-skate get-to-know-you mixer and various community building retreats, as well as hosting speakers to talk about career paths and resources for undocumented students.

According to Eugeneo and Acevedo, the biggest challenge the program faces is finding members, due to the sensitivity of the issue.

“Due to privacy reasons, [Pomona College] is not able to tell us who is undocumented/DACAmented and it is hard to know which students we can best support,” Eugeneo said.

This year, however, their membership has greatly surpassed that of previous years. Acevedo attributes this to the success of online advertising and posters they put up throughout the campus.

Another challenge the mentorship program faces is determining how private the group should be, as some members are not comfortable with sharing their status.

“There is a sentiment that we should be completely private and work underground,” Acevedo said. ”We are trying to understand if that sentiment comes from the group itself or if it has been projected onto us.”

Although Acevedo initially took a leadership position because she was one of the only members with work authorization, she said that her role as a leader has allowed her to make connections and hone certain skills like communication, organization and planning.

“Being part of IDEAS has provided me with a great community during my college career,” Acevedo said. “It also has helped me make connections with people who can help me when I am in need of a resource or advice.”

Eugeno said the group has helped him embrace his identity and heritage.

“It has encouraged me to take pride in my cultural background and contribute positively to both my community and society at large,” he said. “Ultimately, it has instilled in me the determination to overcome obstacles and not let my immigration status define my potential.”

This is the second article in a series profiling 5C-wide affinity groups on campus. Students interested in joining IDEAS mentoring program can reach out to them directly or come to their events.

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