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Mendoza: Prop. 308: Providing educational hope to Arizona youth

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Mendoza: Prop. 308: Providing educational hope to Arizona youth

  • Emily L. Mahoney/Cronkite News file photo

Dario Andrade Mendoza is the communications manager for ScholarshipsA-Z, and a Tucson resident.

As a DACA recipient and a software developer, I always remember how I was almost forced out of higher education due to a lack of access to in-state tuition. I intimately understand the reality that current high school graduates in Arizona continue to experience.

Today, voters have an opportunity to provide hope and access to thousands of Arizona high school graduates through Proposition 308.

I remember my math class in the spring semester of senior year at Tucson High Magnet School in 2012. I sat alongside Melanie, Maya and Anwyn. I remember all the laughs, and the unofficial check-ins we had. Towards the end of spring, these check-ins became more official. Maya and Anwyn were also seniors and would often talk about their plans post-high school.

They always asked me what my plans were and I'd always say "I'm still looking at my options, I'm not fully sure yet". It was a lie, I had no plan and no options but I couldn't tell them that.

I couldn't tell them that I had a stack of acceptance letters in a drawer at home that all labeled me as an out-of-state student although I was about to graduate from a local high school. I couldn't tell them about not being eligible for any public scholarship or financial aid. I couldn't tell them that I had no plan or options. I couldn't tell them I was not going to go to college.

I couldn't tell them I was Undocumented and had no hope for the future.

How could I? I could see the University of Arizona stadium from my window at home yet their acceptance letter considered me to live in another state.

My tuition would be three times as expensive as what Maya or Anwyn would pay. Under Prop. 300, I was considered out of state at the community colleges as well. This is the reality of about 2,000 immigrant youth who graduate from Arizona high schools annually.

Except there is one difference.

This year Prop. 308 is on the ballot and it would provide access to in-state tuition for all Arizona high school graduates who have lived in Arizona for more than two years.

Right now we have the opportunity to provide access to in-state tuition to thousands of youth in Arizona. We have the opportunity to provide the hope I didn't have many times. Access to in-state tuition made all the difference for me.

In 2012 I was eventually connected to ScholarshipsA-Z and won some of the private scholarships on their list which allowed me to start at Pima Community College that fall.

In 2013 I received my DACA status and that same year, ScholarshipsA-Z and community organizations advocated for and won in-state tuition for DACA recipients at Pima Community College (a policy which would go away in 2018).

This decision, this access to in-state tuition kept me enrolled at Pima Community College and eventually to transfer as I pursued a degree in mechanical engineering. Access (or lack of) to in-state tuition determined every step of my journey through higher education in Arizona.

I’m now a UA alumni, holding a master’s eegree in Electrical and Computer Engineering and a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering. I’m also a Pima Community College alumni.

I’m a software developer, DACA recipient and communications manager but overall I’m a Tucsonan and a supporter of Prop. 308.

More by Dario Andrade Mendoza

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