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Fighting for Fairness

Spanish Major Advocates Equal Opportunities for All Students

December 8, 2009

By Mimi Ko Cruz

Anna Diaz Villela

Age: 21

Majors: Spanish and Chicana and Chicano studies

Mentors: Roberta Espinoza, Patricia Perez, Janette L. Hyder

Volunteer Service: Cal State Fullerton AVID tutor, president of the Spanish student group Associacion de Alumnos y Exalumnos de Español and co-adviser of Savanna High School's MEChA

Favorite Author: Alfonsina Storni

Favorite Movie: “Salt of the Earth”

Favorite Pastime: Playing soccer

Some of Anna Diaz Villela's friends and fellow college students are trying to finish their degrees and become productive members of society.

They grew up in the United States as did Diaz Villela. But, because she was born here and they were not, she qualifies for student financial aid and when she graduates, her chances of landing a good job will be far better than her friends’ chances.

“My friends were brought to this country when they were very young,” Diaz Villela said. “They had no choice, and now they are working hard, getting a higher education without any financial assistance because they want to contribute to society. Undocumented students face extra struggles, more hardships. Is that fair?”

The answer to that question is no, if you ask Diaz Villela or the heads of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities.

At a recent HACU event on campus, Cal State Fullerton President Milton A. Gordon, chairman of the board of HACU, and Antonio Flores, HACU president and CEO, addressed the question. Gordon and Flores said they support legislation, called the DREAM Act, that is being considered by Congress. The DREAM Act proposes U.S. citizenship eligibility for undocumented young people in exchange for two years in higher education or military service.

Diaz Villela spoke about the issue at the Nov. 13 “HACU on the Road” event on campus and discussed it at HACU’s conference in Orlando two weeks earlier. She and fellow Cal State Fullerton students seniors Christine Hernandez and Henoc M. Preciado, English majors; junior Julio Perez, political science, senior Enrique Ortiz criminal justice; junior Carmen Lopez, physics and Spanish; sophomore Genesis Perez, health science and junior Eliza Ramirez, political science and women’s studies were student ambassadors at the conference.

Diaz Villela, who is majoring in Spanish and Chicana and Chicano studies and serves as a volunteer mentor to high school students through the university’s student organization MEChA, said the conference was encouraging.

“It’s great to network and make connections not only personally, but also to be able to share with our community,” she said. “It’s important to promote awareness and information of higher education so that we all can progress.”

Diaz Villela, a first-generation college student from Anaheim, said she plans to pursue a doctorate degree so that she can serve as a positive role model in the Chicano and Latino community.

“The stereotype is that we are not progressing as a community,” she said. “We need to change that through higher education. We college students have to go back to our communities and be positive role models so that high school students will be motivated to stay in school and go to college.”

Whether documented or not, Diaz Villela said, education is the key to success.

“That’s why I want equality for all students,” she said.

Diaz Villela's professors admire her passion.

“I met Anna in her first year at CSUF,” said Patricia Perez, assistant professor of Chicana and Chicano studies and one of Diaz Villela’s mentors. “She was and continues to be a wonderful student thorough, dedicated, critical, civic-minded, respectful and just a mature, well-rounded individual. I am fortunate to have crossed her path.”

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