Building staff capacity to support undocumented youth

December 15, 2015
  • AACRAO Connect
  • Compliance and Reporting

In an effort to assist members in integrating their policies with new federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recommendations, AACRAO is conducting a multi-part series on the recently released DACA resource guide.

As the second edition in that series, this article will review Tip 5- Build Staff Capacity and Knowledge of Relevant Issues. The USDOE suggests secondary and post-secondary staff achieve that by providing “high-quality training for all staff who engage directly with students so they are equipped to support undocumented youth.” The example model for this tip comes from Chicago, Illinois.

In Chicago, the Mayor’s Office of New Americans worked jointly with the Chicago Public Schools to launch the Illinois Dream Act Counselor Training during the summer of 2013.  The training stems from a line in the 2011 Illinois Dream Act that required high school college counselors be better trained on options available to undocumented students in order to ensure students received the best information about their options. The Act also opened the states college savings plan to anyone with a taxpayer number and required the creation of DACA student specific scholarships. 

The training program for counselors is provided by the Mayor’s Office of New Americans as part of the larger Chicago New Americans Plan, which recommends a broad array of new programs and initiatives designed to improve the day-to-day lives of immigrants while promoting Chicago’s economic growth and cultural vitality. In a press release at the start of training, Mayor Emanuel announced that the training will “provide Chicago’s DREAMers and their families with tailored support so students can excel in the classroom and obtain guidance in applying to a college or university. With this training we can ensure our undocumented students have information so they can achieve a higher education, access financial resources and seek a bright future.” The training for counselors takes place during regular summer institutes for staff development. At least 150 people participated in the two-day event in 2013. The intensive, district wide and front-loaded training of student service staff on current information makes this a model of how to effectively build staff capacity and knowledge.

Neither Chicago Public Schools nor the Mayor's Office was available for comment during the process of writing this story.