MISSION & VISION
We assist Dreamer and undocumented students currently attending law school in California through scholarships, legal services, and mentorship. We focus on fundraising, policy and legal services through creative community engagement, music, dance, arts, and folklore. We have also expanded our services to help the immigrant and undocumented community in California with free legal immigration consultations, legal training for the protecting of their rights, and advancements in grassroots-level engagement & education.
Our vision is to raise funds to provide financial support for Dreamer and undocumented law students in California and to expand our services to help all undocumented graduate-level students all over the nation. We also strive to raise awareness surrounding the struggles and difficulties that undocumented students face so that our community can be supportive of their efforts as well as being inclusive of the original Dreamers - immigrant parents - who have paved the way for so many of us. We seek to bring about substantive change to educational institutions through legislative and social policy changes as well as legal services to immigrant communities in rural areas. Our hope is to help the community we serve in a more concise and permanent manner, so that immigrant and undocumented students can live a life that they deserve. We use fundraising, education, training, community dialogue, art, photography, storytelling, community engagement, and leadership as tools for change to benefit the future of our community.
The DREAMer Fund was created in 2016 by a coalition of law students in San Francisco, California. The coalition was a response to several undocumented law students who were facing barriers in paying for their law school tuition and other expenses, which jeopardized their ability to continue and complete their legal education.
Our group consists of multicultural, mixed immigration status professionals, and allies eager to make a change. Through our combined skills, knowledge and passions we seek to address systemic issues in the education system that frustrates Dreamers’ and undocumented students’ ability to achieve their professional goals. Likewise, it is our priority to forge a safe space for all persons.
MEET OUR TEAM
Founder & Co-Executive Director
Monica Valencia is a lawyer, professor, activist and artist. She is from Echo Park in Los Angeles, California and grew up in an undocumented immigrant family. Born to immigrant parents from Mexico, Spanish is her native language. Monica believes that her language and her culture are both important to her identity, but also to the ways in which she navigates her spaces in society. She is the first in her family to attend college, graduate, and receive higher education.
Monica enlisted in the U.S. Air Force after high school and received station assignments in the U.S., South Korea and Germany. She excelled in the military and spent six years in service of her country, traveling through Europe, Asia, and the U.S. Monica returned home to California with an honorable discharge.
After the military, Monica graduated Magna Cum Laude with a B.A. in Sociology and a minor in Human Rights from the University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles, where she excelled academically and received numerous awards, scholarships and fellowships. As a McNair Scholar and Mellon Mays Fellow, she was able to design, conduct, & complete an Honors Thesis under the instruction of Dr. Pierrette Hondagneu-Sotelo and Dr. Jody Agius Vallejo. Monica spent a year and a half in the field conducting ethnographic research based on participant observation and in-depth interviews in an indigenous community in Southern California. Monica successfully presented her research findings at numerous sociological conferences around the nation and coined the term "transnational prejudice." Monica graduated from USC having received one of the highest honors; the Order of the Laurel and the Palm, among other honors that celebrated her academic abilities.
Monica went on to study law and received her Juris Doctorate (J.D.) degree at the University of San Francisco School of Law. While at USF Law, she gained practical skills by interning and externing at various organizations including the Immigration Center for Women & Children, Justice Now, and the Immigration & Deportation Defense Clinic at USF Law. Monica taught Street Law to high school students in the Mission District of San Francisco, CA, and competed on the Asylum Moot Court Team at USF Law. She was also one of ten students selected to participate in the Keta Taylor Colby Death Penalty Project and was assigned to the Capitol Defenders Office in Jackson, Mississippi.
As a result of her dedication to the profession of law, she has been awarded several awards including the San Francisco Trial Lawyers Association Fellowship, the Equal Justice Works Public Interest Law Award, and the OneJustice Pro Bono Publico Gold Award two years in a row. Monica graduated from law school having received a public interest law certificate with high honors. At her graduation, Monica was also the recipient of the 2017 "Pursuit of Justice" award; which is awarded to one student from the graduating class.
While in law school, Monica founded the Dreamer Fund in 2016, a non-profit in San Francisco, California, in hopes of giving back to law students and her immigrant community. She is currently the founder and co-executive director of the Dreamer Fund and she uses the Rebellious Lawyering model to work collectively and learn from the undocumented and immigrant communities to create social change and education equity. Monica was trained under the "Rebellious Lawyering" model by her mentor and professor, Bill Ong Hing, both as a law student and a Post-Bar Fellow at the Immigration & Deportation Defense Clinic at USF Law. She continued her training with Prof. Bill Ong Hing, Esq. and Prof. Jacqueline Brown Scott, Esq. at the clinic for three years.
Currently, Monica is a Managing Attorney at the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights in Los Angeles (CHIRLA) and the Immigration Clinic Co-Director and adjunct professor at Golden Gate University School of Law in San Francisco, California.
My name is Gabriela Garcia, I am an undocumented immigrant originally from Michoacán, Mexico. I come from a large family of six. It was due to the size of my family that we slowly migrated to the United States. Arriving to the United States was a big shock for me because of the language barrier and not knowing if I was going to be able to continue with my education. The language barrier made it so I had to work twice as hard simply to keep up with my peers. The challenges I faced learning a new language and adapting to a different culture made my early years in the United States very difficult. However, it was through these adversities that I was able to cultivate self-growth and an appreciation for knowledge.
After graduating from Leuzinger High School, I attended El Camino College, where I obtained an Associates degree in Political Science. Due to the lack of financial aid available for undocumented students, at the time, I had to work throughout my education in order to pay for it. I eventually went on to obtain a Bachelors degree from California State University, Los Angeles in Political Science. I was then accepted to the University of San Francisco School Law, where I’m pursuing a Juris Doctorate. Once I graduate, I plan to work as an immigration or civil rights attorney.
Before attending law school, I worked at the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA). I was first hired as a legal fellow and later gained formal accreditation from the Board of Immigration Appeals. This means that I am accredited to give people legal advice, represent people in front of the Board of Immigration Appeals, and assist people with filling out applications with legal representation. My goals is to be able to make a positive change in my community by providing legal services at a low cost. I am a proud Immigration Attorney.
LIZETT RODRIGUEZ PEÑA
Lizett Rodriguez Pena is an attorney dedicated to providing access to nonprofit legal services for low-income immigrant vulnerable communities in the rural and agricultural areas of California. Lizett received her BA from the University of California, Davis, and her JD from the University of San Francisco School of Law. As a first-generation Latina immigrant and proud daughter of migrant farmworkers, Lizett has used her migration experience to connect and advocate for the rights of the immigrant communities.
Lizett served as an Equal Justice Victims of Crime Fellow at California Rural Legal Assistance, Inc. for two years. She investigated hate crimes and civil claims, such as wage, retaliation, and harassment claims, and provided legal representation to advance through administrative proceedings and/or civil actions. Additionally, Lizett provided representation in applications for immigration reliefs through the U-Visa, T-Visa, or VAWA-Visa programs for immigrant victims of certain serious crimes and domestic violence throughout Northern California.
She was a Legal Extern with Open Door Legal and an Intern with Immigration Resources Center. Lizett also participated in University of San Francisco (USF) School of Law Immigration and Deportation Defense Clinic where she represented unaccompanied immigrant children in their asylum immigration proceedings. Lizett was also an Legal Intern at Immigration Legal Resources Center (ILRC) where she assisted the immigration attorneys provide technical support to other law firms and non-profit organizations.
Lizett served as the Vice President of La Raza Law Student Association and as Co-President of USF Parents and Advocates Law Student Association, which she helped establish after having her first child to advocate for law student parents’ needs and rights. Lizett is committed to dedicating herself to the cause of justice.
Co-Director of Education Equity
Dyvianne Martinez grew up in a socially conscious farm-worker community in Ventura, California. Her parents immigrated to the United States from Mexico through the Bracero Program and worked in the fields and packing plants of Ventura County. Due to her upbringing and experience, she is inspired and motivated to work for the benefit of her mixed status immigrant community. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Spanish Literature from the University of California, Santa Cruz in 2009 and is currently a graduate student at the University of San Francisco School of Education and a candidate for a Master’s in Organization and Leadership.
After UC Santa Cruz, she worked as a litigation assistant at a plaintiff-side law firm in Oakland that mainly represented farm workers in the Central Valley. She then worked at the local food bank in Oxnard, CA helping to support outreach efforts to Spanish-speaking and Mixteco indigenous communities.
Dyvianne currently works at the Golden Gate University as Assistant Director of Admissions and wishes to continue working in higher education upon receiving her degree. Her goal is to help first-generation students in navigating higher education and to provide the support that is needed for students to be successful.
Co-Director of Education Equity
Bethzy Garcia was born and raised in Mexico. She came to the United States at age 15. Bethzy is the first in her family to finish high school, graduate from college and attend Graduate school. Bethzy attended a low performing public school where the school was often placed on lock-down due to fights sparked by racial tensions. Despite the lack of a safe environment at school, Bethzy had very encouraging teachers and supportive parents who encouraged her do well in school. In spite of the language barrier and the cultural shock, Bethzy managed to be at the top of her class and was able to finish high school in three years.
Bethzy graduated from California State University, Northridge with a Bachelors in Psychology and a Masters in Educational Psychology. She also has a certificate in Human Resources from Loyola Marymount University. As part of her graduate thesis she created an after school program for elementary students. She used math games to motivate students to learn. Bethzy is very passionate about education and her goal is to help low income, minority, and first generation students to accomplish their academic goals.
After the announcement of Deferred Action for Childhood arrivals (DACA) in June 2012, Bethzy was hired at CHIRLA as a Legal Fellow. Since the implementation of DACA she has helped to coordinate CHIRLA’s DACA program and has helped thousands of people to apply for DACA. Bethzy has also been part of the expansion of the Legal Services Department at CHIRLA. In 2014, she became one of the first Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) Accredited Representatives at CHIRLA. As a BIA representative Bethzy is able to provide legal advice and represent clients seeking immigration benefits. Bethzy has helped clients to apply for naturalization, family petitions, adjustments of status and U-Visas.
Working for CHIRLA has given Bethzy the privilege of helping thousands of Dreamers to apply for DACA. In addition, she has also participated in multiple college workshops where she has provided presentations regarding AB-540, The California Dream Act and financial aid in general. Bethzy is currently working on her College Counseling certificate at UCLA in order to better help the student population that she works with. As an immigrant, Bethzy understands the struggle that many undocumented students endure while attending school.
Bethzy joined the Dreamer Fund because she values education and as an undocumented student, she has struggled to put herself through school. Plus, she believes in giving back to the community and helping others to accomplish their dreams.
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
PARTNER WITH US
Partnerships are a valuable way to collaborate and work with community organizations, educational institutions and other like-minded groups. Partnerships include stable leadership, vision, and the necessary drive to build networks to resolve issues affecting our communities – together.
In an effort to build long-lasting partnerships, our goal is to cultivate an understanding of our partner’s work by understanding their culture, appreciating their values, working with their organizational framework, and comprehending their vision.
Through shared objectives, the Dreamer Fund hopes to work with organizations in order to advance each other’s missions in an organic way. This entails building capacity together as partners in an underserved and underrepresented community, but also evolving jointly and adjusting as we learn about different issues and different approaches.
We are committed to working towards the good of the community that we serve. As our partner, we would work with your team collectively to bridge gaps in the services that are needed by undocumented and immigrant students and by enhancing our programmatic impacts.
Our vision is to come to your area and provide students, staff, faculty, organizers, family and allies with the necessary tools and resources that will be helping in successfully applying to graduate school. We tailor our resources and presentations to the needs of your community. W also provide mentorship and volunteer opportunities for persons interested in learning more about law school and advancing the ‘undocumented and immigrant graduate-level student’ blueprint.
By accepting to be our partner, we would like to list you on our website as an educational institution or organization that we collaborate with. No other information will be posted about you. We only ask that you grant us permission to tell our community who we are working with and/or who shares our vision.
We look forward to having you as our partner. If our visions do not align at this time, don’t worry. Our door is always open for future collaborations.
Email us for more information to firstname.lastname@example.org