Q&A: Getting on Track with Cendy Vides

October 6, 2016

Our final Beyond the Dream webisode is online today! Each of the three webisode specials offer a sneak peek at our upcoming documentary about three young adult immigrants—who have only temporary protection from deportation—as they navigate the uncertainty of their twenties…and of their legal status.

Today’s clip features a look around the Los Angeles-Boyle Heights location of College Track, a nonprofit that helps high school students get on the right path towards college. The organization provides young adults from underserved communities with the skills and resources needed to succeed in their postsecondary pursuits.

The clip also features an interview with College Track’s Cendy Vides—operations manager, family engagement coordinator, and someone who just really, really loves her job.

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An immigrant from El Salvador, Cendy’s mother left when she was four years old in search of a better life in the U.S. Later, when Cendy was eight years old, her mother brought her to America, too, with the help of a coyotaje who illegally smuggled her across multiple dangerous borders.

Cendy spent ages eight through fifteen hanging in the balance that so many undocumented students face—since she was unable to legally establish residency, she was discouraged from joining federal programs because of her lack of a Social Security card. For years, she didn’t know if she’d be able to attend college.

Luckily, Cendy’s story has a happy ending: after her mother used a lawyer to help her establish residency, she secured a bachelor’s degree in global/Chican@ studies from the University of California, Santa Barbara, as well as a master’s degree in higher education from the University of Redlands.

Her role at College Track now includes helping Angelino students and young adults apply for the programs that will give them the rights that she lacked for so many years, including the protections offered by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The DACA policy gives undocumented young adults the opportunity to secure a two-year work permit, a driver’s license, and, in many states, access to student loans or in-state tuition rates for college students.

“I see my story in a lot of [our students] and I’ve built really great relationships with them that I feel have impacted their lives into pursuing a higher education,” says Cendy.

Her influence seems to be working—partnering with will.i.am’s i.am.angel foundation this year, the Boyle Heights College Track location graduated 100% of its 45-student class from high school, and almost all of their students have been accepted to universities. By comparison, Boyle Heights and its surrounding areas have a dismal 50% high school graduation rate. Clearly, Cendy and her colleagues are doing something right.

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And why does Cendy feel that receiving a high school diploma and attending college is so important for immigrants like herself? Unlike the fickle and ever-changing rights given and revoked from undocumented and DACAmented young adults, “education [is something] no one’s ever going take away from you.”

Watch today’s clip to hear more about Cendy’s amazing story and the work she’s doing with College Track.


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