Brooklyn College has added to their long list of student services with the new Immigration Student Success Office located at 117 Roosevelt Hall. The center was founded with the intent of guiding immigrant students and their families down the path to graduation and success in college.
“We work for changing lives,” said Jesus Perez, the director of the program and graduate of BC’s class of ‘95.
The new program, only the second of its kind CUNY-wide (the other one being at John Jay), was funded by alumni Irwin Federman and his wife Concepcion. It aims to provide services or refer immigrant students and their families to services essential to their academic success, including counseling, financial aid advisement, and legal advisement.
Presently, the office refers students seeking help to the appropriate on-campus services, such as Financial Aid and the Office of the Registrar. Eventually, Perez hopes to bring faculty members from the different centers directly into the office. He also hopes to organize workshops for parents navigating college complexities for the first time.
Plans for the office have been in the works for a long time now, circulating among faculty members working to make the office a reality.
“It was a culmination of events and people working together that actually made it happen,” said Perez.
Among these faculty members is sociology professor Carolina Bank Munoz. Munoz gathered data about immigrants on campus and found that there was a need for services. Part of this need resulted from the large and varied immigrant population at the school.
“Immigrant students are a much more diverse group at Brooklyn College than even at other CUNYs, and certainly across the nation,” she said.
Many are first generation college students, with a need for guidance. Munoz documented her findings in a pitch for the program that she eventually submitted to the administration.
“We wanted this to be an office that’s helpful to all CUNY students,” said Munoz.
Working with immigrant students is a personal venture for Perez, who himself came to the United States from Mexico at age nine.
“Having to start a new place affected me tremendously,” Perez said. “I had to learn a new language and navigate a new culture.” From there, Perez attended the nearby Edward R. Murrow High School, where he was urged by a guidance counselor to attend Brooklyn College.
“I fell in love with the place,” he said.
While attending BC, Perez got involved across campus, including as a tutor in the ESL program and a photographer for both the Kingsman and the Excelsior. After graduation and some outside freelance work, Perez returned to BC and worked his way through a number of positions until he became director of the Center for Academic Advisement and Student Success, CAASS. There, he worked to smooth the way for students to graduate in the designated four years, helping them plan out course schedules.
Perez says although the school has changed since he attended BC in the early 90s, the campus still has the “same spirit.”
He is now taking all of that expertise into the new ISSO office: the same room he worked in as a photographer for Excelsior.
“Right now it’s just me,” joked Perez, hoping to eventually grow the current status of the newly renovated office to more comprehensive service for students. “Our goal is to keep growing, to grow our office and grow our services.”
In the future, there are plans to include constant services from an immigration lawyer, as well as instituting a faculty advisory program to help guide students more individually.
Starting Wednesday, Oct. 9, the office will host an immigration attorney every other Wednesday, and they will be participating in a “Know your Rights” seminar to educate students on Friday, Sept. 27 at the Graduate Center for Worker Education at 25 Broadway in Manhattan.
The office is open to students Monday through Friday, during class and common hours.