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NPS joins with City, local universities and others to offer support to undocumented students and their families
[Newark, NJ – February 10, 2017] On Saturday, February 4th, Newark Public Schools (NPS) hosted an event at Science Park High School to help connect undocumented students and families with resources and services to help them navigate their higher education options and other aspects of their lives after high school. The event was kicked off by Mayor Ras J. Baraka and Newark Public Schools Superintendent Christopher D. Cerf who spoke about the importance of making sure that all of Newark’s students and families have the tools they need to succeed.
“This event is an essential part of our effort to give every student and family, regardless of their status, an opportunity for success,” said Superintendent Christopher D. Cerf of Newark Schools. “The students and families attending this event contribute immeasurably to our community and we must do everything in our power to ensure that we are giving them the tools to achieve college, career and lifelong success.”
UndocuNewark is a unique event developed by the NPS Office of College and Career Access, in collaboration with Essex County College, Rutgers Law School, and UndocuJersey. At the conference, students learned about educational resources such as scholarship opportunities and other important facts about college programs and finances specific to undocumented students. In addition, Rutgers conducted legal screenings for immigration relief.
Superintendent Cerf also previewed content from a letter assuring all undocumented families that their right to education in Newark would not be affected by recent political events. The letter will be distributed to all NPS families. A few of the topics the letter addresses include:
- Undocumented immigrant status does not affect a child’s ability to access education in Newark. Children have a constitutional right to have equal access to education regardless of their immigration status or their parents’ status.
- Newark Public Schools, like all districts in NJ, does not ask for a child’s immigration status when he or she enrolls. The school district would never share a student’s immigration status with federal immigration officials, even if it became aware of that status through some other means.
“Every child and family deserves a chance at success, regardless of how they arrived in Newark,” said Mayor Ras J. Baraka. “We are committed to not only protecting the well-being of all our residents, but also to providing them with a roadmap for success to navigate any barriers they may confront along the way.”
In addition to the letter Superintendent Cerf is sharing with families, the UNDOCU-NEWARK program comes at a time when the Newark city government and school district are taking a number of measures to support undocumented immigrant populations. Recently, Mayor Baraka announced his commitment for the City of Newark to remain a sanctuary city to protect the rights of all citizens. In addition, Superintendent Christopher Cerf recently signed a petition to express his support for the continuation of the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA) programs.
“The Office of Student Supports developed the UndocuNewark conference to address the needs of our community so students can learn more about next steps for academic success and eventually meaningful careers,” added Dr. Kelly Williams, Newark Public School Special Assistant/College and Career Access and organizer of the event. “We are very grateful for all of those families who came to take advantage of these resources and for the leaders and staff who came to express their support for our families today.”
While school districts in New Jersey do not collect data on the documented status of students or families, Newark is a diverse community where approximately one out of every three Newark residents is born in another country, and a similar ratio of students speak a language other than English as a primary language at home. Last year, the city launched a municipal identification program issuing ID cards that allow undocumented immigrants to access state, city, financial, and cultural services. As of this September, the city had issued nearly 10,000 of the IDs.
In addition to partnering with the organizations at the UndocuNewark event, Newark Public Schools staff are meeting with other community based organizations and community leaders to ensure that NPS schools are safe places for learning and dialogue for all students.
“This is just the first step in a series of conversations and opportunities to support our undocumented students and immigrant families,” added Margarita Muniz, Executive Director of Family and Community Engagement at NPS. “We want our families to know that we stand with them, we are here for them, and we will do whatever we can to create safe spaces for them to learn and grow.”
No Media was permitted at the event. The information collected and distributed at the conference is confidential and will not be shared with any other government agencies.